An Otsego County dairy farmer with five young children was killed when he became entangled in a mechanized corn chopper, authorities said Tuesday.
The frigid weather apparently played a role in the accident, as Daniel Banks, 40, of Westford, was attempting to free a frozen power take-off attached to the corn chopper when the device engaged and his clothing became wrapped around the moving mechanical part, the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department reported.
“This is really a nightmare for everyone,” said Barbara Hosier of the town of Oneonta, whose daughter and son-in law, Connie and Douglas Lull, rented farmland to Banks and his wife, Mae.
Banks was pulled farther into the machine, and authorities determined he died as a result of blunt force trauma to the upper body. He was pronounced dead at the scene by County Coroner Michael Fox Jr.
Banks and his family lived in a trailer behind the barn at the farm at 1675 County Highway 34. The couple’s children ranged in age from a 1-year-old to a student in 9th grade, said Hosier.
She said Banks was chopping bedding for his cows when the mishap occurred.
The Westford Fire Department and the Schenevus Emergency Squad responded to the scene after emergency radio services reported a “9-Echo-1” call, which signifies “not breathing at all.” Coordinators for the Otsego County Office of Emergency Services also rushed to the farm.
Bill Gibson, a veteran farmer and an agriculture educator for the Cornell Cooperative Extension Service of Schoharie and Otsego County, said the power take-off shaft on such farm equipment is known to be potentially dangerous.
The cold weather, he noted, also increases hazards for farmers because it causes machines to freeze up, creates patches of ice and leaves the grown rutty, creating tripping hazards. Farmers are also wearing more clothing around the machinery, which can elevate risks, Gibson pointed out.
Gibson recalled Banks as a dedicated farmer who was devoted to his family. “He was a hardworking man, just trying to make a go of it on the farm they utilized.” he said. “They were trying to have enough production in these tough times to pay the bills. It’s a lot of work. This is truly a tragic event.”
The Rev. Susan Wenner, pastor of the Westford Methodist Church, which will conduct a memorial service for Dan Banks on Saturday, said, “This tragedy has had quite an impact on the entire community. My heart goes out to this family.”
An obituary released by Heller Funeral Home in Schenevus said that contributions could be made in Banks’ memory to the Westford Fire Department, Post Office Box 24, Westford, NY 13499.
Calling hours will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the home, located at 25 Arch St., Schenevus.