Elevator accident

Emergency responders on scene of a grain elevator accident at First Elevator Co., located 3 miles west of Grant Park.

GRANT PARK — Chester A. Cleveland, of St. Anne, and a co-worker were doing maintenance inside a 110-foot-tall grain bin at Whitaker Grain Elevator around 11 a.m. Wednesday when an accident claimed Cleveland’s life. Manteno Fire Chief Scott O’Brien said the two men were climbing out of the bin for lunch when Cleveland fell 70 feet. He landed on about 8,000 bushels of corn, in which he became trapped.

The co-worker, a 28-year-old-man, alerted employees on the ground there was an accident and then climbed back down into the bin to help Cleveland.

After a rescue attempt that lasted more than seven hours, Cleveland was pronounced dead at the scene by Kankakee County Coroner Bob Gessner. A preliminary autopsy performed Thursday showed Cleveland died from multiple injuries he suffered from the fall, Gessner said. A final cause of death still is pending.

The co-worker was transported to a local hospital for observation, and was treated and released, O’Brien said.

Cleveland, 58, was a 40-year employee of Whitaker, which is located at 7690 E. 9000N Road, Grant Park. The accident is being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Major rescue effort

There were three teams of rescuers used during the operation to free Cleveland from the bin, including the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) Division 7 rescue team of first responders from Kankakee County, and two Combined Agency Rescue Teams (CART) from the suburbs.

According to the Orland Park Fire Protection website, CART serves eight northeastern counties in Illinois: Cook, Will, Grundy, Kendall, Kankakee, Dupage, Kane and Dekalb. The team’s total response area includes more than 1,000 square miles.

The American Red Cross provided food, drinks and hand and foot warmers to the more than 80 rescue personnel on scene the day of the accident. River Valley Metro provided a bus to be used to keep personnel warm.


Jeff Bonty has worked for The Daily Journal since September 1986, starting in the sports department before moving to news reporting in 2002. He's a native of Indiana and graduate of Purdue University. His email is jbonty@daily-journal.com.