FROM:Brian DawsonDeputy Chief of PoliceHays, KS
CONTACT PERSON:Brian DawsonDeputy Chief of PoliceHays Police Department(785) email@example.com
DATE: December 31, 2022FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SUBJECT: Man on Grain Elevator
On Friday, December 30, 2022, at 4:20 p.m. the Hays Police Department received a call about a man on the grain elevator downtown. Officers responded and set up a perimeter blocking off streets close to the grain elevator. Attempts to get the man down were made over the police vehicle loudspeaker. Fire fighters and emergency medical services were called to the area as well. The man was someone who had recently arrived in Hays and already had contact with law enforcement in the few days that he had been in town.
The distraught man was yelling and pacing back and forth on the very top of the tallest grain elevator in downtown Hays. You could hear the man yelling but officers were not able to hear him well enough to understand what the man was yelling about. He took his jacket off in the cold and was pulling things off the top of the roof. He had thrown debris off the roof along with a hammer and at one point he tore off a metal rod and was flinging it around.
Employees from the Midland Marketing grain elevator assisted law enforcement with making entry inside the dusty grain elevator and updated them on the hazards inside. The employees provided sealed flashlights to the officers. The special flashlights were to help reduce the risk of flash explosion with the grain dust inside the elevator. Officers had to ascend the grain elevator inside in a very small one-person elevator and climb some slick ladders inside. Once officers were as close as they could safely get, attempts to communicate and negotiate with the man were made. The man did come to the edge a couple times and utter some things to the negotiator that were hard to discern and then he left the edge and communication was never re-established with the negotiator.
A drone flown by Rooks County Deputy James Balthazor, who also is an associate professor at Fort Hays State University, helped officers on the ground see what the man was doing. Information was relayed to the Hays Police personnel and one Ellis County Sheriff’s Deputy inside the grain elevator. Attempts to communicate via the drone were waved off and then ignored by the man. Officers inside the grain elevator could hear the man banging and digging away at the top of the roof as he ignored the attempts of the negotiator who was trying to regain communication.
Once the man started smoking on top of the grain dust-filled elevator officers started retreating to exit the potential explosive hazard and regroup. As one negotiator started descending inside the one-man elevator, officers had observed the man through a window crawl along the edge. Once he was on the south side of the top of the elevator, he slung himself over the edge and dropped himself down about 20 – 25 feet to the next level. His actions were also observed on the ground via the drone and binoculars.
The officers inside the grain elevator responded to the man’s location but were unable to get to the outside level to the man without crawling out a window and dropping down or climbing up a ladder from a lower level to get to him. The man had sustained serious injuries when he fell to the next level. He was on his back and able to communicate to the officers who were talking to him out the window. The man said he could not move. The drone was deployed at the time and responders on the ground at the command post observed his fall and started working up a rescue plan. At this point fire fighters and emergency medical technicians entered the grain elevator to start working the rescue.
Over the next several hours responders worked to secure the man, lift him up through a window into the grain elevator, lower him down to the next floor and carry him to a small three-foot by three-foot elevator shaft where a fire fighter was attached to the man, and they were lowered to the bottom of the grain elevator inside together. Several emergency responders had to rig up pulleys, ropes, and safety lines to move the man to safety. The conditions were dark, slick from dust on the floors, dust in the air, cramped quarters, and they had to watch where they stepped so they didn’t fall through the numerous holes in the floor. Some holes were covered with lids that would not support the responders' body weight and were a hazard that they had to work around. The drop if a responder fell through a hole was a long way down.
Hays fire fighters along with fire fighters from Goodland, Kansas set up the rigging and eventually got the man to the ground safely. The responders did an amazing job in safely maneuvering through the difficult environment to work together and get everyone out of the building safely. The man was eventually taken to the Hays Medical Center for medical treatment. We are not releasing the name of the man.
Thank you to the Kansas Highway Patrol, the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, the Ellis County Emergency Services personnel (EMTs/paramedics), the Goodland Fire Fighters, Rooks County Deputy James Balthazor for his drone work, the grain elevator employees for their advice and assistance, and to the Hays Fire Fighters and Police Personnel.