Annals of Terrifying Deaths

Sometimes I find myself meditating on my own mortality, and of the myriad ways for the human life to be snuffed, this tale of grain silo drowning is among those that make my skin crawl most:

What happened next isn’t entirely clear to Piper. Suddenly, he saw Whitebread riding a pile of moving corn nearby in a sitting position, something the young workers did occasionally to help grain flow. By the time he stood up, Whitebread was knee-deep in a sinkhole. Right away, Piper said, he and Pacas rushed to either side and tried to pull Whitebread out.

Then, all three started sinking, while Lawton climbed a ladder to get help. Whitebread was the first to go under, Piper said.

The facility’s manager, Piper said, turned off the grain-moving machines, but the corn was still unstable and began to swallow up Pacas and Piper, who had an advantage over his friend because he was taller.

“He prayed for us to get out alive, he prayed for his family, for his siblings; then he said, ‘All I ever wanted to do was watch my brothers graduate high school,’ ” Piper remembered, describing Pacas’ last moments.

Reciting the Lord’s Prayer, Pacas asked Piper to hold his hand as corn climbed above his head.

Whitebread and Pacas were 14 and 19, respectively. I hope they’ll find some peace, and that more silo workers will be wearing harnesses in the future.

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