The tragedy that rocked the small Minnesota town of Millerville last weekend claimed another life Friday night when 11-year-old Alex Boesl died days after he, his father and uncle accidentally inhaled toxic fumes inside a grain silo on their family’s farm.
Alex had been hospitalized at Children’s Hospital of Minneapolis since breathing in the deadly silage gas last Saturday. His father, Curt Boesl, and uncle, Steven Boesl, died earlier of exposure to the gas.
“Fly high sweet boy. We didn’t get the miracle that we all prayed and hoped for, but you have given the miracle of life to so many others. We love you and will miss you always,” Alex’s aunt, Erin Beltz Boesl, wrote in a Facebook post Friday night.
Another aunt, Amy Revering, wrote Friday evening on Alex’s CaringBridge site that he “danced his way into Heaven at 5:19 p.m.” as one of his favorite songs — “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten — began to play from his phone.
On Thursday night, the family had learned after Alex was weaned off sedation that he could not survive. Revering wrote then that the miracle the family had hoped for might instead become one for others through organ donation: “Alex’s Christmas miracle is giving life to others.”
Alex and his father were working in the top of the silo last Saturday when they were overcome by the fumes, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Another son noticed the two were down and called 911; he also called his uncle, who lived nearby and who, upon arrival, climbed into the silo to try to save his brother and nephew.
Steven Boesl, the 49-year-old uncle, was then himself overcome and died at the scene. Curt Boesl, Alex’s 47-year-old father, died Sunday morning.
Silos can fill with carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, gases created by the fermentation of silage, which is fodder for cattle and sheep.
Fifteen farmworkers died in grain bin accidents last year, according to data analyzed by Purdue University, with most silo deaths involving people who asphyxiate or are crushed by falling grain.
Community members in Millerville, a Douglas County town of about 100 residents, have rallied around the Boesl families as they mourn for the brothers and now Alex. A GoFundMe account set up to be split between the two families had raised more than $65,000 from about 800 donors as of Friday night.
“They were involved in so many things and so many people knew them,” said Millerville Fire Chief Rodney Roers. Curt Boesl was his assistant chief and Steven Boesl had served with the Fire Department for more than 20 years but had retired from the work.
“The community is very shook,” Roers added. “I don’t know if anybody has experienced anything like this. It’s something so unexpected and it affected so many families. Especially when you have a child involved, it is so hard to take and understand.”
Funeral plans for Alex and Curt Boesl had not yet been finalized Friday night.
A visitation will be held Monday for Steven Boesl from 3:30 to 8 p.m. at Our Lady of Seven Dolors Catholic Church in Millerville. Services will be held at the church the next day at 11 a.m.
Steven Boesl is survived by his wife, Kim, and five children, Paige, Peyton, Dalton, Dylan and Avery, as well as his parents and two siblings. His online obituary remembered him as “a kind, generous person who was always willing to help others first. This was evident in his family life, but also in the community with his involvement in his church, the Millerville Fire Department, and [as] supervisor of the Millerville Township Board. … His huge heart will never be forgotten and his legacy lives on in his children.”