According to the Taber/Vauxhall RCMP, it happened at 9:09 p.m., as police responded to a report of a farm-machinery accident near the town, located about 20 minutes north of Taber.
Police say a 28-year-old male was believed to have been performing maintenance on a potato harvester when he became caught in the roller section of the machine.
Members of the Vauxhall Fire Department and EMS extracted the male. However, he succumbed to his injuries.
The man killed in the accident, Joel Bydevaate, will be remembered by many in the community, according to those who knew him, who said they will miss his infectious personality.
“He was a good guy,” said Kyle Sargeant, who played men’s league soccer with Bydevaate in Lethbridge.
“He never had anything bad to say about anyone. He never complained and he was always a pick-you-up kind of guy. He was the least-pessimistic guy I knew. It’s terrible when things like this happen to good people. It’s terrible. He was always happy and never had anything to complain about.”
Sargeant added the impact of Bydevaate’s loss will be great in his hometown.
“He’ll be missed by a lot of people,” he said, and added the close-knit Dutch community in Taber will particularly feel the loss, along with those in the sports community.
“He gave a lot back to the community. He coached a lot of soccer in Taber.”
Speaking of sports, Sargeant added Bydevaate would have been geared up for last Thursday night’s National Football League game, which featured the team he loved.
“He was a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan. He’s the only Bills fan I’ve ever met. I’ll definitely be thinking about him every time I watch a Bills game from now on.”
Laura Nelson, executive director of the Farm Safety Centre in Raymond, said she was saddened by the news of a harvest-related fatality, and added this is a time of year when operations are humming along at full speed, and danger levels are ramped up.
“The biggest thing about harvest, and this is not news to anyone, is everyone is trying to beat the season,” as she mentioned one grower from the Morinville area north of Edmonton who reported her farm was working until 3 a.m. most days to finish harvest.
They put a stop to the practice, which would have wrapped up harvest much quicker but soon after, as luck would have it, snow on the ground interrupted harvest.
“Your livelihood for the entire year could depend on a few days. It’s not your livelihood so it’s easy to judge them, but they have very much windows of opportunity and constraints that are put out of their control.”
Finding a balance between getting the crop into the bin and doing it safely is key, she added, and in most cases, that task is done with a focus on completing the task correctly and with as little risk as possible.
“It’s always easy to focus on the negatives, but think of all of the things that are done well,” said Nelson, who added farmers operations would not be in business if that was not the case.
She added farming does carry some inherent risks, associated with working long hours with large equipment, massive animals and dangerous chemicals. Unfortunately, the harvest season is a time when those risks increase.
Nelson added employees have to deal with the dark if they’re working late into the evening, along with dust and fatigue.