GENOA – Leon Madey, 72, was trying to dislodge a hardened layer of corn inside a grain bin on his rural Genoa farm when he fell in and died Monday afternoon, officials said.
It took rescue crews from across Northern Illinois more than three hours to remove Madey's body from the grain bin on his farm on Genoa Road. Madey was found dead inside the bin after the hours-long recovery effort, police said.
Officials did not know how far Madey had fallen or how much corn was inside the bin, but said when they found him around 4:15 p.m., he was in a standing position about six to seven feet from the bottom.
Madey was a lifelong farmer and also was as a volunteer firefighter with the Genoa-Kingston Fire Department for 20 years, retiring about 10 years ago, fire Chief Bruce Kozlowski said.
“He was a great guy,” Kozlowski said. “A hard worker, good farmer, good firefighter.”
Madey and his son were trying to dislodge the corn inside the grain bin Monday, Kozlowski said. The son, who officials would not identify, walked away from the bin for an undetermined amount of time.
When the son returned his father was gone.
Suspecting his father had gone into the corn bin alone, the son called 911 at 12:44 p.m., police said.
When the DeKalb County Sheriff's police arrived they searched other buildings on the farm before determining Madey had fallen into the bin. Crews cut holes on the side of the bin to allow corn to spill out before sending firefighters to rappel inside the bin to search for Madey.
More than 100 firefighters and rescue personnel responded to the scene from fire departments across northern Illinois. They cut a handful of holes in the side of the bin, calling in semitrailers to haul the corn away as firefighters and family members shoveled it out of the bin.
About 4:15 p.m. rescue crews found Madey's body. After being pulled from the bin Madey was taken by ambulance to Kishwaukee Hospital, Kozlowski said. Officials did not know if Madey died from the impact of the fall or if he was suffocated by the grain that buried him. DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller could not comment on the cause of death, but said an autopsy would take place this morning.
Genoa-Kingston firefighter Randy Jennings said Madey left behind a wife and four children. Madey's family members declined to comment.
Jennings said Madey was like a father to him because he grew up with Madey's sons, who also were volunteer firefighters. He said he was devastated and shocked to learn Madey, whom he said was a cautious man, had fallen into the bin.
“It's purely an accident,” Jennings said. “For many people working on the farm, these things can happen in the blink of an eye. And you may be doing all the safety precautions you can and these things still happen.”
• Note to readers: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect age for Leon Madey.