Rescuers used a special tube and shoveled corn to free a man who was trapped inside a grain bin for nearly two hours on Thursday morning.
The man, 43, of Columbia, Ill., was conscious and talking throughout the rescue as he stood waist-deep in grain.
He became trapped shortly before 9 a.m. in the 75-foot-high silo at the Center Ethanol Co. plant, 231 Monsanto Avenue in Sauget.
Shortly before 11 a.m., he was freed. He was taken by medical helicopter to St. Louis University Hospital. The helicopter crew told dispatchers that the man had some pain in his right leg but was able to move his legs and arms. Authorities did not release the man's name.
The man had gone into the bin for routine maintenance, said Randy Lay, with the St. Clair County emergency services rescue team.
The corn shifted "like an avalanche" around him, said Capt. Dan Sutter of the St. Louis Fire Department. Another worker who was at the opening of the silo saw that happen and called for help.
The silo can hold up to 300,000 bushels of grain, but on Thursday morning it held about 80,000.
Rescuers likened the grain to quick sand in the way it closed in around the man.
"You'd think you could just pick someone up (but) there's so much pressure around the body," said O'Fallon Fire Chief Brent Saunders. "He's surrounded by that."
Saunders said crews lowered a tube around the man to protect him from the crush of the grain. They then shoveled the corn away from his body to give him room to stand up.
Firefighters who are experts at rappelling were among those who rushed to help in the rescue efforts, but no one ended up rappelling because the man was at floor level. More than three fire departments, including the St. Louis Fire Department, were called out. Dispatchers also summoned a special team of St. Clair County responders.
A man who answered the phone at Center Ethanol Plant declined comment.