Injured Preston, Md., Farmer Gives Back to His Rescuers

2/9/2013 7:00 AM
By Ann Wilmer Maryland Correspondent

On Dec. 3, Greg Turner of Preston, Md., almost became a statistic: one of the 26.1 per 100,000 U.S. farmers and farm workers who die from a work-related injury each year.

Instead, he will be the inspiration for a benefit dinner March 9 to raise funds for the rescue services that helped saved his life.

Turner was electrocuted on his farm, two miles outside of Preston, when the downspout being removed from his grain storage facility hit power lines as the crane operator swung it to one side.

Turner, who had just walked over to see how they were coming with the job, was leaning against the crane. The electricity passed through his body and blew a hole in the sole of his work boot. His heart stopped beating, but his other injuries were minor.

“Next thing it was lights out,” Turner said.

He woke up in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. It was later that he learned about the miracles that saved his live.

The crane operator was trained in CPR as a Boy Scout. His training kicked in and he administered CPR until the rescue squad arrived roughly two minutes later.

Turner said he’s grateful to the crane operator, who prefers not to be named a hero. And he’s grateful for the automated external defibrillator (AED) machine EMTs used to stabilize him.

“I was clinically dead and they brought me back,” he said. “And the emergency personnel at Easton Hospital were top shelf.”

The Preston Volunteer Fire Company is all-volunteer, except for one staff EMT. Turner said he has always been proud to support them because they are important to the community, but he never expected to find out just how valuable.

At the start of deer season many of the local volunteer firemen had taken the day off. Thankfully, a few of them were sitting around drinking coffee at the firehouse when the call came in. It enabled them to respond quickly, and that quick response time saved his life.

The firemen rushed him to Easton Hospital where he was treated successfully. By late January, Turner was hauling corn again and working on his farm. His doctors sent him to University of Maryland Hospital for an advanced electrical study to determine if he could continue as before without a pacemaker. He got a clean bill of health. His heart was back to normal.

One might think such accidents rarely happen - the story of Turner’s injury even made the trade press in the United Kingdom - but agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. Farmers are at high risk for both fatal and nonfatal injuries. In 2010, more than 1.8 million full-time workers were employed in production agriculture in the U.S. , according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During that same year, 476 farmers and farm workers died from a work-related injury.

In 2009, the last year that the Maryland Department of Labor and Industry collected statistics, 31 Maryland workers were injured as the result of contact with electricity while on the job. None of them were engaged in farming. However, 62 farm workers in the U.S. are electrocuted annually.

Michael Wolf, agricultural safety branch chairman for the American Society of Safety Engineers, pointed to a colleague’s presentation about farm injuries, specifically electrocution, which stated: “The most common causes are portable grain augers, oversized wagons, large combines, irrigation pipe and other tall equipment that contact overhead power lines.”

This probably comes as no surprise to Turner, who said he was struck by lightning once before while working on the farm. Although it knocked him over, he was not injured, he said.

Turner said he knows he is a lucky man and he is eager to use his experience to help guarantee that the fire department will continue to provide care to his neighbors in Preston.

“The fire company is good bunch of people, some are farmers. I never had time to join, but anything I can do to help them, I want to do,” he said.

Since the local fire company bought 10 acres to allow for future expansion, Turner has planted, cultivated and harvested the acreage every year, along with his own land, and turned over the proceeds from whatever crop he grows there to the fire department. It’s his way of giving back to the community.

After his most recent brush with death, Turner agreed to put his name on a community fundraiser to benefit the fire company’s equipment fund.

The benefit dinner will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at the fire hall. The goal is to raise $15,000 for CPR equipment for the local ambulance company. Tickets are $50 per person, which includes a full-course meal of roast beef, turkey, green beans, potatoes, coleslaw, rolls and dessert. A silent auction will follow.

Among the fire company personnel that played a part in rescuing Turner are: Marie Wilson, Mike Bradley, David Wielgosz, Troy Plutschak, Chris Pentz, Jeff Covey, A.J. Plutschak and Brian Milligan.


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