Lake Benton, MN
In the ten years Delbert Willert has been in 4-H, he never dreamed that one of his projects would save someone's life. It all started two years ago, when the now 16-year-old boy had a good idea.
"I was going through a magazine, and I saw an article about one of these Res-Q Tubes. I didn't know what it was, so I asked my father what it was," Willert said.
Willert researched the GSI Res-Q Tube. It is a device the crews use to pull people out of grain bins. It's a long, hollow, light-weight aluminum tube that stands upright at six feet tall. The device separates into four panels. Each panel is pushed down into the grain to surround the person who is trapped. Eventually, the panels are locked together to re-form the tube. The tube keeps more grain from burying the person and allows rescue workers to vacuum out the grain. Rescue workers can eventually get the person out, and there are ladders on the inside of the tube that may help the person climb out. Willert wanted to get one of these tubes for the Lake Benton Fire Department.
"I figured if they had something like this, less people would die," Willert said.
Lake Benton is not the only town in Lincoln County, Minnesota, with a Res-Q Tube. Willert raised $17,000, enough money to buy one for every fire department in the county, which includes Hendricks.
"Without him coming up with this, we would have never had it," Hendricks Fire Chief Scott Krier said.
Krier said without it, rescue crews may not have been able to pull 29-year-old Cory Hanson out of a bin of soy beans on Monday. Hanson, who works at the Hendricks Farmers' Elevator, was buried up to his neck.
"It's not just about keeping your head above; you can't breathe if your head goes under. When you fall into it, you get so much pressure on your chest, you can't expand it to breathe," Krier said.
According to Hanson's mom, he is doing fine and was back to work on Tuesday. Krier said it is not easy getting someone out because the grain acts like quick sand. Typically, according to Krier, you will not get out if the grain goes above your knees.
Willert's mom and dad call the firefighters heroes, but they could not be prouder of their son.
"I don't think he has the full scope that if he hadn't done this, there's a parent who wouldn't have gotten to go home to their child last night," father Kevin Willert said.
"To sit outside and wonder if your child's going to come back, to think that Delbert had an impact...that chokes me up," mom Laura Willert said.
Willert, who also raised enough money to provide training on how to use the Res-Q Tube, was pretty modest about his big accomplishment.
"It felt really good someone used my project to save someone else," Willert said.