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Man rescued after falling down grain elevator shaft
Flown to Savannah hospital, in stable condition
Capt. Weston Williams, top, and a host of Bulloch County and Statesboro Firefighters team up to rescue 64-year-old Charles Edward Thomas, a worker, at JB Anderson Peanut & Grain Co. after he fell nearly 20 feet into an empty, in-ground grain bin elevator shaft Thursday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

A Bulloch County man was rescued Thursday after falling about 20 feet down a vertical grain-elevator shaft, but did not escape serious injury.

While helping construct the elevator, on a site just off Nevils Groveland Road in Nevils, a millwright identified by a co-worker as 64-year old Charles Edward Thomas, 64, plunged from a steel I-beam that stretched across the top of the shaft, face-first, to the metal floor.

Bulloch County and Statesboro fire crews pulled Thomas from the shaft shortly after 4 p.m.
At approximately 6 p.m., a spokesman for Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah said the man had been admitted to the emergency room, and was in stable condition

“He was standing on steel I-beam over the hole, lost his footing — he wasn’t anchored down to anything — and fell in face-first. He remained conscious the entire time,” said Bulloch County Fire Chief Chris Ivey, minutes after the rescue. “He is injured, but we can’t say how badly.”

According to Ivey, four firefighters were lowered into the elevator casing to extract Thomas.

He was treated briefly in an ambulance, before being flown to Savannah.

A witness to the incident, co-worker Marcus Howell, said Thomas lost his footing — in essence, was flipped from the beam — when welds holding the I-beam in-place buckled due to extra pressure around the shaft; the pressure was caused by dirt being moved with bulldozers close to the area.

Howell and other workers rushed to the hospital immediately after the accident to check on their friend.
Cooperating fire departments responded the accident call and lifted Thomas from the hole in approximately 30 minutes.

The Statesboro Fire Department was called to assist Bulloch County, in order to use the  ladder truck.

Tim Grams, Fire Chief for the Statesboro Fire Department, said he was thrilled with the amount of teamwork on display at the scene.

“It is great that Bulloch County and Statesboro can work together this well,” he said. The rescue went very smoothly”.

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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