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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJune 26 - July 02, 2019

In-Grained in Kansas

0 1b22fBy Jim "Buck" Sorrenti

A farmer driving a John Deere 8245R tractor, pulling a fully loaded grain cart, attempted to cross a five-span, 91' timber bridge in the northeast corner of Reno County, Kansas, on June 12. The bridge collapsed; two spans were completely destroyed. The cart fell into the creek below, while the tractor became stuck at the top on the collapsed edge. The farmer was not injured.

It was reported that the bridge has its weight limit posted and the cart was not even close to being within the weight limit to cross the bridge.

Auto House Towing & Recovery in Galva was called to handle the recovery. Brothers Eric and Chris are now the owners of the family business, having recently purchased the company from their parents, Galen and Sharon. Chris's wife, Stephanie Unruh, is the company office manager and also drives.

They responded the next day with both of their Century 50-ton rotators, a 2005 Pete 379/2015 Century 1150R that was stationed at their Salina location, and a 2017 Pete 389/2016 Century 1150R that was stationed at their Galva location.

They had four riggers on scene, Eric, Stephanie and Galen, along with Keith Lawrence. Chris showed up later after Galen, 72, collapsed from heat exhaustion.

The 1,000-bushel grain cart was fully loaded with wheat when the bridge collapsed and probably grossed about 80,000 lbs. Farmers helped unload the grain cart. A lot of it was in the creek bed creating a way to walk across the creek and not get wet along with the timbers that had fallen through.

Eric and Stephanie operated the rotators.

"We positioned one rotator on the east side of the bridge and the other one on the west side, strung the cable from one rotator over and hooked it to the boom of the other rotator to create a trolley system," said Stephanie.

"Galen, Eric and Keith got out one of the spreader bars and put it together with several endless loops and connected it through the bottom of the cart while I was up on the bank working the controls for the cable to get it into place while they attached the spreader bar to the cart and loops," she said.

With the spreader bar in place, Stephanie raised the cart up to try and give the safety chain and hydraulic lines some relief so that they could be detached from the tractor and be moved out of the way to recover the cart. Unfortunately, the tongue of the grain cart was stuck in the fallen support beams of the bridge and lifting the cart itself wasn't working.

"All the guys went back down into the creek bed with the cart and repositioned the spreader bar so that I could lift the cart and get the tongue to move," Stephanie said. "Once we provided a little relief on the hydraulic lines and safety chain, Eric and Keith climbed behind the tractor on the unstable part of the bridge to cut the hydraulic lines at the base of the tractor and the safety chain."

With the hydraulic lines undone, the farmer's father-in-law was able to drive the tractor ahead and out of the way. The whole time Stephanie had the drag winch from the rotator connected to the tractor to maintain it just in case the bridge collapsed more.

With the tractor out of the way, they proceeded to pull the cart up the bank. Stephanie connected the drag winch with an endless loop onto the tongue of the grain cart so that they could pull the cart ahead while they were lifting.

"Once Chris got on scene," Stephanie said, "he and Eric took over the rotators while I watched all angles to make sure we were not hanging up anywhere and that everything was going smoothly. We communicate with Sonetics headsets, they are a life saver!"

"We got the grain cart up the bank," she said, "but some of the timbers were a hindrance so I took back the controls of the rotator. The three guys climbed into the grain cart, took off the spreader bar and put chains and shackles on the inside of the cart closer to the rear in order to bring the rear of the cart more into the air to help get it up over the timbers."

After the cart was re-rigged, Eric started winching it onto solid ground with the drag winch while the back of the cart was suspended in the air. Once the whole cart was on solid ground the crew unrigged it and let it sit there until the farmer was able to come and get it.

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Do you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor Jim "Buck" Sorrenti at ; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!
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