First responders detail successful silo rescue

CARMEL, Ind. – A Kentucky man is now out of the hospital with no injuries after being stuck in a silo for more than seven hours Tuesday.

Billy Joe Walls, 34, was doing measuring work inside the silo in Carmel when he got swallowed chest deep in gravel.

The dramatic rescue went into the night with departments from across three different counties responding. One of the rescuers said most firefighters will go their whole careers without seeing a run like that. Despite being a unique situation, crews were prepared.

“I would say extreme danger," Special Operations Battalion Chief Kevin Jones with the Indianapolis Fire Department said of Walls's situation.

The scene was worse than crews initially expected when they got the call.

"He was trapped up to his chest with gravel material all around him so there's pressure on his body, potential respiratory problems and breathing problems,” said Jones.

The rescue was also a mental challenge. The tight spaces and shifting gravel made it tough, and every solution was met with another obstacle, frustrating first responders as the rescue continued into the evening.

“You take the mental side of things... our people are trained, we’re there to mitigate these issues and help these people, but we’re in a situation and it’s seven plus hours… that’s a long time,” Jones said.

After going through A, B and C plans, crews began vacuuming out some of the gravel and releasing more from the bottom. Rescuers were also working inside the silo, monitoring air quality and Walls’ health.

“He was in good spirits throughout the operation," IFD Co- Ops Rescue Coordinator Bill Zimmerman said of the victim. "I was in there with him for quite a while. He was in high spirits the whole time I was with him.”

Although unique, this type of rescue is constantly practiced by first responders.

"We do train somewhat for those specific types of issues," Jones said. "We have confined space training, we have trench rescue, rope rescue, vehicle extrication. And these teams that cover those disciplines, they train for those types of things.”

In fact, the Westfield Fire Department was doing rope rescue training Wednesday. It's something that happens on a monthly basis, if not more.

“Getting out, doing the training, getting familiar with ropes and whatever systems that we have, it’s got to be done,” said Westfield Fire Department Training Division Chief Charles Johnson.

As for the rescue on Tuesday, rescuers finally brought Walls to safety after several excruciating hours. However, it was the years’ worth of training that made their rescue a success.

“Looking at the situation we had, it could’ve been a very different outcome," Jones said. "So we’re happy with the outcome we had."

IFD said Tuesday was Walls' first time doing work inside of a silo.

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