Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Teamwork, speed led to rescue

By Shelley Grieshop

A St. Henry volunteer firefighter uses a chop saw to cut a triangular piece from. . .

ST. HENRY - The sun was bright and warm that Saturday morning nearly a year ago as rescuers sped toward the Moorman farm along Lange Road.
Minutes earlier, an emotionally distraught Tom Moorman had called 911 to report his wife, Marie, had fallen into a grain bin filled with soybeans. As the fire truck raced to the scene, lead firefighters Ted Woods and Bob Schlater were plagued with one haunting question: Would this be a rescue or a body recovery?
"My first thought was this isn't looking good," Woods said, recalling the moment he approached the 2,000-bushel grain bin.
But quick action and teamwork by St. Henry and Chickasaw firefighters and the St. Henry unit of the Mercer County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) helped save the 75-year-old mother and grandmother. Less than 25 minutes after the emergency crews were dispatched, Marie Moorman was being treated in the emergency room at Coldwater hospital.
On May 13 the emergency crews that responded to the Moorman farm will be given the 2008 EMS Star of Life Award during a special ceremony in Columbus. Marie Moorman also was invited and plans to attend the ceremony.
"There are no words in the dictionary that can explain my joy," she told The Daily Standard this week, adding she has completely recovered from the May 19 accident.
The award ceremony has many purposes, said Laura Tiberi, executive director of the Ohio Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, that sponsors the award.
"We like to use this opportunity to reunite patients with their rescuers," she said. "It's a great celebration of life."
This year judges sifted through nearly 100 applications before choosing one winner from each of the 10 regions in the state, Tiberi said. It isn't an easy task, she explained.
"Sometimes it's tough to get nominations. EMS members are very humble," she added.
St. Henry Fire Chief Ron Ontrop, in his 33rd year on the fire department and 18th year as chief, nominated the firefighters and paramedics for their effort, he said.
"This is pretty exciting," he added.
Each call - whether a fire, car accident or other type of emergency - is a learning experience, Ontrop explained. The rescue of Marie Moorman taught the firefighters to make triangular cuts - not square cuts - through a steel storage bin to stabilize the weight of the outflowing grain. An improper cut could cause a bin to collapse, he said.
Marie Moorman said she had climbed inside the bin that day to gather up the unsightly soybean hulls before the grain went to market. One by one she placed the hulls in a bucket attached to a rope, then periodically lowered it to her husband to discard on the outside.
But on her last bucketful, the rope slipped down inside the bin and began to wrap around the auger. With the other end of the rope circling her leg, she soon was pulled down with it.
Miraculously, the 5-gallon bucket came down over her head and kept her from suffocating in the dense soybeans. Her legs were within a few feet of the auger when the tangled rope caused it to stop.
"If the auger hadn't shut off...," said Schlater, one of the first to arrive at the scene.
It wasn't until the motor ceased that Tom Moorman heard his wife's last cry for help. He climbed to the top of the bin and could see only the bottom of the upside-down bucket. He ran to the house to call 911.
Marie Moorman was unconscious when Schlater first spotted her as soybeans flowed out of the bin. She was pale and gray; he thought they were too late.
"She looked dead," Schlater said.
Stones from the gravel driveway flew into the air as the ambulance sped away, the men recalled. Hours later, they were putting away equipment at the fire station when a call came from the hospital: Marie was sitting up on her own and she was going to be fine. The room erupted into smiles and a wave of high-fives, they said.
After three days in the hospital, Marie went home. She's had no lasting effects, not even nightmares from the horrifying event.
"I feel no fear from it. I was born and raised on a farm and I guess I've always been a Tomboy," she said. "This really hasn't slowed me down at all."
She credits her small head, which apparently fit the bucket perfectly, a small cord rosary that she carries in her pocket every day and God's hand. And she can't say enough about her rescuers.
"I'm sure glad they did what they did for me. It's nice to know there are people in our community who are willing to give up their time to help the rest of us," she added.

EMS Star of Life Award:
EMS Star of Life Awards are given out annually by the Ohio Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations and other rescue personnel who've shown commitment to service and saving lives. This year's 10th annual awards program will be held May 13 at the Renaissance Hotel in Columbus.
St. Henry and Chickasaw fire departments and St. Henry EMS members were chosen for this year's honor for their part in saving the life of Marie Moorman of St. Henry, who fell into a grain silo on May 19. One EMS Star of Life Award is given out to exceptional EMS personnel from each of Ohio's 10 EMS regions.
More than 32,000 EMS providers serve communities across Ohio. The local departments chosen for this year's award were among approximately 100 entries reviewed by judges, according to Laura Tiberi, executive director for the Ohio ACEP.
Past local winners from Region III, which includes Auglaize and Mercer counties, were Minster Area Life Support, Wapakoneta Fire Department and the St. Marys City Fire Department.
- Shelley Grieshop
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