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Keen Aviator Lost Life in Silo

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Guest thrasher

A GRAIN silo worker trapped chest-deep in canola seed kept talking to his rescuers before slipping under the surface to his death.


Keen aviator Bruce Hartwich died after almost five hours stuck in the silo at the grain facility on South Boundary Road, Hamilton.


Authorities are investigating whether the 58-year-old's safety harness broke while he was working to clear a blockage, dumping him into the canola in the 25-metre high silo.


Acting Senior Sergeant Steve Thompson said Mr Hartwich kept talking to his rescuers _ including police, State Emergency Service and Country Fire Authority volunteers _ while they battled to reach him to pull him free.


``During that time he kept talking to rescue crew members, many of whom he knew well from around town,'' Senior Sergeant Thompson said.


``Many different strategies to try to free him were attempted but suffice to say the longer he was covered the less optimistic they became.''


Country Fire Authority operations manager Mick Harris said every movement made Mr Hartwich sink deeper.


``The canola is a very fine grain and while it does flow and move, it does not behave like water and requires some sort of force to help it move,'' he said.


Mr Hartwich disappeared under the canola and died shortly before 8pm on Wednesday night.


Rescue workers eventually retrieved his body after drilling holes near the base of the silo to drain the grain, 12 hours after the ordeal began.


Victoria's workplace safety watchdog said it was investigating whether a broken harness may have led to Mr Hartwich's death.


``(The man) was wearing a harness when he went in but the rope may have broken and he's sunk into the grain up to his chest,'' WorkSafe Victoria spokesman Michael Birt said.


``We don't have a lot of detail yet. We will be back there today.''


Senior Sergeant Thompson said police would prepare a report for the coroner.


GrainCorp didn't return calls to The Standard yesterday.



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