Farmer Caught In Auger Takes Extraordinary Action To Save Life

OMAHA, NE — Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country, and no one knows that better than Kurt Kaser, a 63-year-old Nebraska farmer. Kaser was moving corn from a truck to a bin, a chore that has become rote over the 40 years he’s been working the land near Pender, when he felt his leg being sucked into the auger’s corn hopper.

Augers, one of the most dangerous implements farmers use, are powerful machines with vacuum-like pressure that efficiently move grain from one place to another. The corn hopper — the opening that draws corn into the cylinder that moves the grain to its new location — is the most dangerous part of the equipment.

The auger sucked in Kaser’s foot, then his leg and, the farmer feared, would eventually suck the life out of him.

Accidents like this aren’t uncommon. Out of every 100,000 farmers, 21 die every year in farm-related accidents and tens of thousands more are hurt in accidents involving from machinery, according to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

As the grain auger tugged at his leg, Kaser remembers thinking, “This ain’t good. This is not good at all,” he told Omaha news station KETV.

Kaser was alone and had lost track of his cellphone, but he wasn’t about to become another statistic. What he did have was a sharp pocket knife.

He pulled the ultimately life-saving instrument from his pocket and started sawing.

The knife severed nerves. Kaser felt it with each cut. He willed himself to keep cutting in the race against the unrelenting piece of farm equipment.

“I felt [the auger] jerk me again,” he told KETV. He remembers worrying he would lose consciousness and the auger might completely swallow him.

“I thought for sure I would pass out, and somehow something told me to keep going,” Kaser told NBC News of the accident that occurred near the end of April. “I did what I thought I had to do …”

Finally, he was free, and the bottom half of his leg fell away.

“I knew I was done cutting because I felt a funny feeling, maybe it was a tendon I cut,” Kaser told CNN.

He had successfully amputated his leg, but the ordeal was far from over. Kaser had to get help, and quickly, before he collapsed and bled to death.

Putting one elbow in front of the other like a baby learning to crawl, he propelled himself 150 feet across his farm to his house and called 911.

“I stopped for a little bit but I didn’t want to stop for long in case I passed out, there was no way for me to get help, everyone was gone at the time, I just did what I had to do and they (first responders) got me in a helicopter,” Kaser told CNN.

Kaser knows about the dangers of farming, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics says is the eighth-most-dangerous occupation in America. In 2017, the latest year for which statistics are available, 258 farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers died while doing their jobs.

Kaser himself had a previous brush with danger as a sixth-grader when he got his leg stuck in a tractor and sustained minor injuries.

“These accidents happen all the time …” he told CNN. “We’re kind of used to this around here.”

He even blames himself.

“I paid the price of being in a hurry and not paying attention, basically,” Kaser told KETV.

Kaser is out of the hospital now, has been through rehab and looks forward to getting a prosthetic leg when he has completely healed. He discusses what happened with surprising calm, and is ready to get back to work on his farm, which is located about 80 miles northwest of Omaha.

“He told me his goal, basically, ‘I need to get home and get back to what I was doing before,’ which was farming,” Dani Willey, his occupational therapist, told KETV, noting that Kaser has been “pretty nonchalant about everything that happened, like it was no big deal.”

It isn’t a big deal in comparison to what other patients at Madonna Rehabilitation Center are going through. They’re coping with far worse, and “you got to think of that,” Kaser told NBC.

“Everyone asks me why I am so calm about the situation and the truth is, when I was in Madonna, I saw so many people who will probably never be able to walk again, and I know I will be able to walk mildly norma,” Kaser told CNN. “I’m fortunate.”

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