June 7, 2016 is a day that will be forever imprinted in Greg McCann’s mind. It began as a normal June day on his farm in southeastern South Dakota. The crops had been planted and, like every year in June, they were needing to be sprayed. Greg’s 35-year-old son, Grant, helped out on the farm and planned to spray the fields that day.
“He went and got the sprayer filled and ready. After he got the sprayer ready and conditions were right well, then, he went to spray,” said Greg. “He called me to see if I could move an irrigator for him, and that was the last time I talked to him. He entered the field and the driveway to the field went under a powerline.”
Unfortunately, Grant didn’t drive far enough into the field. He stopped at an angle close to the power lines. As he began unfolding the 90-foot sprayer booms, they touched the energized power line which instantly electrified the tractor.
“He tried to call Wayne, the young man who runs my farm, but he wasn’t able to get through because there was so much static, so we don’t know what happened after that,” said Greg.
The sprayer was caught in a Bon Homme Yankton Electric Cooperative distribution power line. Co-op Electrician Kevin Meyer was just a few miles away when he and his apprentice received an outage call.
“A radio call came across that another neighbor farmer was out of power as it started out as an individual outage,” said Kevin. “We packed up our tools and stuff and left the yard. As we were leaving the yard, I received another call from a supervisor saying that we got a call that there’s a sprayer that looks like it might have made contact with a line that’s probably the first place to go and it’s looking like we have more consumers out.”
Kevin and his apprentice didn’t know what they might discover, but knew they had to move fast.
“As we’re rolling up on scene, one neighbor was there sitting on the road on his four-wheeler and he just said someone is down in front of the tractor,” said Kevin. “It was very tough to see other than you could see someone was there but didn’t know who it was and at that particular time I knew that it could be Greg, Grant, or my cousin Wayne. So, in all that you’re mentally preparing yourself for what you’re about to discover.”
What they would discover is that Grant made a mistake that would end his life. Rather than staying in the cab and waiting for help, he had stepped out of the sprayer.
“The consequences of that mistake took
my only son,” said Greg. “He was my friend, my partner, my confidant. Now every day I remember that terrible morning and I see Grant lying dead on the ground. There’s no fix. There’s no second chances.”
No one can know what was going through Grant’s head at the moment he left the cab. But Greg wants others to learn from that mistake, so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“If Grant would’ve stayed in the tractor and not touched anything, I think he’d be here today. But he didn’t,” said Greg. “I don’t want anyone to have to experience the sadness and the emptiness that I and Grant’s family and friends are experiencing and will be experiencing for a long, long time.”
Do you know what to do if a vehicle you’re in contacts a power line? First, stay in the vehicle and call 911 for help. If you must exit the vehicle because of a fire, tuck your arms across your body and jump clear of any wires with your feet together, never touching the equipment and ground at the same time. Then shuffle or hop at least 40 feet away with your feet together. Stay away from the equipment until the authorities tell you it is safe.
“People get in a hurry and they don’t regard the risk as a risk, and one mistake and it’s too late,” said Greg. “The consequences are so grim and terrible, that there’s no good reason not to be really careful and be aware of where you’re at, and the machinery you’re using and where it’s located. Once it’s done, there’s no turning back.”
With the spread of COVID-19 into our region as well as the pandemic’s financial impacts, everyone has a lot on their mind this year. Letting distractions take your mind away from work in the fields significantly increases the likelihood of farming accidents. Minimize distractions and stay focused in the fields. If you notice your mind wandering at any point, bring it back to the task at hand.
As we enter this year’s planting and spraying seasons, remain aware of where electrical equipment is located when you’re working on the farm and remember the steps to take if your equipment contacts a power line. You could save your life, or the life of someone you love. Visit poweringyoursafety.com to learn more.