STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - David Averitt was no stranger to the inside of a grain bin when he entered one to unclog a drain.
"I've been doing that for most of my life, at least as long as I've been farming," the 50 year old told WTOC in an exclusive interview.
But in seconds, the ordinary chore turned life threatening when the tons of soybeans shifted under his feet.
"It started and got above my knees and that was it. That's all it took and I couldn't get out when it got above my knees and gradually got worse and worse," he recalled.
Farm co-workers tried to free him with no results. The pressure exerted by the tons of beans in the confined space held Averitt unable to move. Besides the strain on his circulation, the weight against his chest made it harder to breathe when he sunk lower.
Co-workers called 911 and fire and rescue crews from across Bulloch County rushed to help. Many did not know until they got there that the victim in the case was the man they'd worked with as a former fire fighter and a retired Georgia State Trooper.
"I saw familiar faces and heard familiar voices and I knew I was in good hands," Averitt said. "I could hear them talking to the people outside. I had no idea how people were down there, professional public safety people, family, friends, neighbors, farmers who stopped to offer their assistance. I didn't have a clue how many people were outside."
Among the responders was Averitt's lifelong friend and cousin-in-law, Darrell Colson, from Bulloch County Rescue. Hours into the rescue attempt, Colson found himself trapped too.
"I could hear Darrell's voice and that was a comfort. But I could never actually see him from where I was. I could hear him behind me and heard all the commotion behind me when he got entrapped," said Averitt.
Rescuers cut a set of large openings in the bin walls to drain the beans faster than the opening in the floor. Colson was eventually freed a few minutes after Averitt was rescued.
"He's just one of those people that is going to stay in and do everything they can do," Averitt described.
But, according to Averitt, that type of effort extends to many in the public safety "family" in Bulloch County. Averitt said his main motive to give an on-camera interview was to personally express his gratitude.
"That's why I've never left Statesboro Bulloch County. People are so wonderful. The professional people that were on duty and off duty that came down there, farmers, friends, family, everybody that gave their time, their equipment. That's the most special thing to me, that they care that much and they're willing to do whatever it takes to help somebody out. I just want to thank them from the bottom of my heart."
Farm owner Greg Sikes told WTOC the agonizing afternoon has him wondering if the large aluminum bins could be made safer with a few extra features.
"I'm wondering if they could add some platforms inside where you could get footing to keep you from sliding. Plus, there could be emergency openings that would release grain in a balanced rate so the bin doesn't become unstable."
Both Averitt and Colson were discharged from a hospital on Friday. Both extended their gratitude to those who responded.