PERRY TOWNSHIP – Heavy snow collapsed a Perry Township dairy barn Tuesday, triggering a rescue effort to save the cows inside. The caller to 911 at about 5:25 p.m. reported that a person may have been trapped but anyone inside was out safely when Sheakleyville Volunteer Fire Department arrived at Colpetzer Xanadu Jersey Farm, 195 Laver Road, Chief Tim Buck said.

No people were hurt, he added.

Buck estimated that as many as 200 dairy cows owned by Tom and Amy Colpetzer were inside the 200-by-150-foot barn when most of it fell down because of a heavy snow load on the roof. 

Dispatchers called out a technical rescue team of firefighters from several departments who are trained to evaluate collapsed buildings for safety. An animal response team trained to work with the rescue of large animals was also called to the scene. 

“We had quite a bit of help from the community,” Buck said Wednesday afternoon. “There were a lot of Amish farmers and other farmers from the area who came down and helped shovel snow off the roof. I would say there were close to 75 people there helping to get the animals out.”

Buck and Debbie Herald, director of Mercer County Animal Response Team, said about 10 dead cows were recovered. 

An unknown number of others was still buried under debris when the search had to be called off because rising wind posed the danger of a further collapse that could have endangered emergency responders. An estimated 150 rescued cattle were trucked to Mercer Livestock Auction, Coolspring Township, for safekeeping in its animal pens and several injured animals were taken to neighboring farms.

“They were going to have to get a track hoe or some kind of machine to lift up the roof structure to see what was under it,” Buck said. He didn’t know if the Colpetzers had insurance and a phone message seeking information from them was not returned.

Rescuers cleared the scene at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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