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11-19-02: Local farmer dies in accident
The Daily Standard

    YORKSHIRE - A 36-year-old Darke County man apparently suffocated   Monday despite heroic attempts to rescue him from the cab of a tractor that slid into a manure lagoon at the dairy farm his family owns and operates.
    Scott Winner, 12620 Willowdell Road, Versailles, was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:31 a.m. at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, where he had been taken aboard a CareFlight helicopter ambulance.
    The accident occurred around 10 a.m. at J & N Farms, 14171 Willowdell Road, as Winner was repositioning a tractor and attached agitator equipment, according to Darke County Sheriff's Office reports. The process is repeated frequently as the 4-million gallon lagoon is drained.
   The tractor and agitator sank quickly beneath the surface, leaving only six inches of the cab visible. Five to six feet of manure already had been pumped from the 13- to 14-foot pit.  Bryan Winner, the youngest of four brothers involved in the farm operation, looked toward the pit around 10 a.m. and did not see the John Deere 4650 tractor his brother had been operating. He initially assumed the vehicle had been driven to the fuel tanks but decided to check anyway. The sight of a patch of green roof sent him running for help.
    Brothers Randy and Dale Winner quickly responded. Tethered to a rope, Dale Winner entered the lagoon and swam in the direction of the tractor.
    "Scott was screaming for help," his mother Norma Winner told The Daily Standard this morning. "At one point, he flipped on the emergency flashers to let his brothers know he was alive. Then his screams stopped."
    Employees of the farm operation also assisted in the futile rescue effort. In response to a 911 call, the Osgood Fire Department, Fort Loramie Fire Department and Osgood Rescue Squad were dispatched to the scene southeast of Osgood at 10:10 a.m.
    Osgood Fire Chief Frank Miller described the rescue effort as "frantic."
    "We tried so hard to get Scott out," Miller said. "You always fear the worst but hope for the best."
    Several local firefighters reportedly dove into the lagoon without the benefit of protective wet suits and attempted to pull open the door. The force of the manure pushing against the cab made that impossible, according to Miller.
    The fire chief described the lagoon as containing about a foot of cold water at the top. Solids settled out into a thick mixture below.
    Local firefighter Gary Poeppelman, who owns and operates G & L Sales, brought his crane to the scene. He used it to swing Osgood and Fort Loramie firefighters closer to the scene. Working together, they finally got the door open and brought out Scott Winner's body. Twenty-nine minutes had elapsed since their arrival.
    The body was lifted into a boat owned by the Fort Loramie department and taken approximately 20 feet to shore, where CareFlight personnel took over. CPR continued as the stretcher was loaded onto the helicopter.
    "I didn't think there was any hope at that point," Bryan Winner said in a voice laced with emotion. "Scott had been down there a long time."
    Bryan Winner said he believes the tractor was in the lagoon for about 10 minutes before it was found.
    He believes an equalization in pressure led to the door's eventual opening. The back window of the cab had been open to allow the driver to reach through and operate the hydraulic control. However, there was not enough room for him to escape as manure seeped into the cab.
    Scott Winner's wife, Janel, and his mother arrived at the farm after CareFlight departed. They were driven to the Dayton hospital by a family friend.
    A doctor delivered the bad news in a quiet area away from the busy emergency department waiting room.
    The tractor remains in the lagoon. Current plans call for the pit to be drained over the course of three days before it is pulled out.
    Scott Winner, described by relatives and friends as a caring man willing to help his fellow man, continued the trait even in death.
    "We were able to donate his skin, his eyes and his leg bones," Norma Winner said tearfully. "They told us at the hospital that 11 people will benefit from his gift."
    The four brothers worked together to make the farm and 600-cow dairy operation successful. Scott Winner, the second oldest, had charge of field operations. Four chairs in Norma Winner's garage mark their customary morning gathering place. After discussing plans for the day, they headed outside.
    "Scott had so much knowledge when it came to that part of the business," Bryan Winner said. "I don't know what we're going to do without him."
    This is not the first time tragedy has visited the Winners. Jack Winner, the father, died 17 years ago of leukemia, leaving the farm and a new milking parlor he never had an opportunity to use.
    The four boys, who ranged in age from 6 to 19 when their father died, vowed to continue his dream, and they achieved their goal through hard work. They believe their father would be proud of the operation which became one of the largest in the area.
    The family had worked 1,800 acres before scaling the acreage back to about 800 recently.
    "The boys decided they wanted to have more time to spend with their families," Norma Winner said. "Scott was looking forward to doing a lot more camping with his family next year. That won't happen now."
    The tall man with a ready smile eagerly followed the soccer games of his daughter, Tara, a fifth-grader, and his son, Chad, a second-grader. Hayley, who will turn 6 soon, often accompanied her father in the tractor. Luckily, that was not the case Monday morning.
    "Scott liked to have a good time," Norma Winner adds. "He worked as hard as he partied."
    Funeral arrangements are pending at Hogenkamp Funeral Home in Minster.


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