By Margie Wuebker
VERSAILLES -- Two brothers, who dreamed of one day taking over the family farm when their father retired, died Saturday morning when the grain auger they were pushing came in contact with overhead power lines.
Craig A. Meier, 28, and Douglas R. Meier, 20, both of 9026 Pitsenbarger Road, were taken from the scene of the 10:19 a.m. accident by CareFlight emergency helicopter and pronounced dead on arrival at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton.
The men, who are the sons of Dale and Jane Selhorst Meier, had come to a farm the family rented along state Route 47, northeast of Versailles, to help with the soybean harvest.
"Craig and Doug were wheeling the auger to the grain bin like they had done so many times before," Jane Meier, a Coldwater native, told The Daily Standard. "This time it came in contact with electric lines. If only they had been on a tractor with rubber tires."
Dale Meier, a native of the Maria Stein area, had climbed from the combine and was on his way to remind his sons about the power lines, which appeared darker than usual after early morning fog. He walked around the bins and witnessed the accident. Meier reportedly called 911 on his cell phone while trying to help the pair who fell approximately 15 feet apart. The sound of sirens quickly filled the air as police, firefighters and rescue personnel responded from nearby Versailles. Darke County Sheriff's deputies also came to the scene.
"Squad members did everything they could and so did the CareFlight crew," Jane Meier says. "Nobody could bring Craig and Doug back; they were already on the way to heaven."
The brothers, who were exceptionally close despite an eight-year age difference, lived, breathed, slept and ate farming and football, according to their mother.
Both had played defensive positions on the Versailles High School football team. Craig, a 1997 graduate, participated in four state championship games and helped the Tigers bring home three state titles. Doug, a 2005 graduate, played in two state championship games and helped add another first-place award to the trophy case.
"Doug always had time to talk about football," Sandy Grilliot says. "The Meiers rented our farm the past four years, and there was not a time those guys didn't smile and wave. Anyone would be proud to have them as sons."
Father and sons had spent the past year remodeling an older farmhouse around the corner from the family dairy farm. An inspector had approved the work with the go-ahead for Craig to move in coming just days before his death.
"It was truly a labor of love," Jane Meier says. "They gutted the place and added on more space. I think Craig was looking forward to a place of his own where he could throw parties and entertain friends. The last of the furniture had been delivered, and we were planning an open house/housewarming for 2 p.m. Saturday."
The brothers had planned to move the auger and then head to the house to make final preparations before family, friends and co-workers showed up to watch the Ohio State-Bowling Green football game. The party food was served later in the day as family and friends came to express condolences.
With three older sisters, they took special delight in playing the role of uncle to eight nephews and two nieces. Family members admit that it was hard to determine who was having the most friends -- the big boys or the little kids. Both were good natured, although the younger one definitely inherited an ornery streak Jane Meier attributes to his father.
Friends and neighbors came enmasse over the weekend to harvest crops as the Meiers made funeral arrangements. Combines stirred up clouds of dust while tractors towed filled hopper wagons along Pitsenbarger Road. Others milked cows and fed livestock.
The men had taken jobs during the past year to supplement their farm income. Craig worked for the Darke County Highway Department while Doug worked at Shardo's Pallets in Willowdell and as a substitute driver for the Greenville post office.
They often spoke about continuing the family farm tradition when their dad retired.
"Dale is trying to come to grips with the loss of a promising future," Jane Meier says. "He knew the boys would be good stewards of the land. If we have any consolation, it is that Craig and Doug went together doing what they loved. It would have been difficult for one to survive without the other."
See obituaries on page 5A.