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Tragic tales give kids powerful safety lesson

MONTMARTRE, Sask. — Bryant Gaetz was sure he was going to die.

In an instant, the 16-year-old farm boy’s life flashed before his eyes.

“I thought I was dying right then,” said Gaetz, recounting a harrowing day three years ago when the grain auger he was pulling with a tractor hit an overhead power line on his family’s mixed farm.

With an explosion of sparks and flames, the voltage surge set the auger tires ablaze and the tractor tires exploded. The stubble was on fire by the time the Grade 10 student was able to call 911 on his cellphone.

“They told him not to move and not to let anyone come within 40 feet of the tractor, but they also gave him instructions about how to jump out if he felt like the tractor was going to start on fire,” said Bryant’s mother, Val Gaetz, who still tears up as she recalls the two hours that she and her husband, Kevin, watched as their son waited for rescue.

It was one of many stories presented to Montmartre School students at Farm Safety Day on June 7.

The day-long event featured safety stations covering a broad range of subjects from machinery rules and lawn mower safety to farm animal behaviour and sun protection strategies.

Duane Janiskevich also drove home the importance of being vigilant. Recounting his own table saw accident that resulted in a crushed hand and finger amputations, Janiskevich said corners simply can’t be cut when it comes to safety, regardless of circumstances.

Farmer Clayton Kotylak suffered a broken jaw this spring after being charged by a cow. It was one of many similar accident stories mounted on the school wall for school-aged students to read.

Tyson Colby, 13, a student at Montmartre School, sports three barbed-wire scars on his upper lip and cheek. His injury occurred when was eight years old and playing with his cousin.

Colby’s dad had installed a new barbed-wire fence the day before, but Colby didn’t realize where it was and ran into it. He needed 16 stitches to repair the damage.

“You should always know what’s going on around your farm,” he said.

The presenters for the day stressed the value in paying attention at all times and promoting a culture of safety. That includes simple tasks like checking the day’s UV index and hand washing to checking the area and honking the horn when moving big equipment.

In one dramatic presentation, a dummy encountered a running power take-off, sending body parts flying into the crowd of school students. Local first responders and fire department members arrived first to stabilize the victim while EMS and STARS air ambulance workers attended next to demonstrate their life-saving work.

Angela Englot, who co-co-ordinated the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day with teacher Wendy Weichel, said the statistics show why safety information is essential in rural communities.

“In Saskatchewan, on average, 13 people are killed on farms each year,” she said. “Most incidents occur in the farmyard and of all serious injuries that happen, 14 percent involve youth. That is a scary statistic and it is not OK.”

They feel the day accomplished its goals.

“Parents are telling us their children cannot stop talking about what they learned,” said Weichel, adding that visual demonstrations like hotdogs being cut up by a lawnmower and lungs being compressed by grain provided powerful and enduring messages.

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