By Marcello Iaia
WESTERLO — A man stuck under a tractor near Flood Road was released and air-lifted to Albany Medical Center Tuesday afternoon.
Assistant Chief Eric Dutton of the Westerlo Volunteer Fire Company said the man’s legs were trapped by the steering wheel of the tractor, which appeared to have flipped backward on the wooded trail as his two-wheeled trailer slid in the mud, pulling it down a hill.
Chief Scott Duncan of the East Berne volunteer fire company, which was first dispatched around 3:45 p.m., said the trail was “slimy” because the morning frost melted in the afternoon. Underneath the mud, he said, the ground can still be frozen.
“It’s kind of like mud on top of ice,” said Duncan.
A man located near Slade Hill Road to the south first heard the man screaming far away, said Dutton. He found the pinned man using call-and-response. Dutton was the first firefighter at the scene, which he said was about three-quarters of a mile from Flood Road.
Duncan said the tractor appeared to be an older, 8N Ford model, which he described as average sized.
“Apparently they’re a little lighter in the front end, so they tend to flip over backwards,” said Duncan.
Ethan Sharp, a Westerlo firefighter at the scene, said around an hour had passed with the tractor on the man’s leg, which he said, “didn’t look serious.” He described digging dirt out, by hand and with shovels, to free the man’s legs. Sharp said the man was transported by a fire department all-terrain vehicle to a place where he could be air-lifted.
“I know he was complaining about great pain in his left foot and his hip,” said Dutton.
Dutton and Duncan only heard the man’s first name, Hank, and said he was a stonemason, gathering flat stones in the woods.
“The gentleman was pretty lucky for the circumstances,” said Dutton. “I don’t know if anybody else knew he was in there. It would have been nice. You work in pairs when you do certain things in the woods.”
Dutton said Tuesday’s incident was the second tractor rollover he has responded to in 22 years in fire service. Duncan said rollovers are not common.
“This is the second tractor roll over accident we’ve had this year, which is somewhat strange,” he said. “The first one was a fatal accident here in Knox.”
Flood Road runs parallel to Route 143, intersecting with County Route 11 in the north and Slade Hill Road to the south.
The Westerlo Volunteer Fire Company, Westerlo Rescue, East Berne Volunteer Fire Company, and Albany Emergency Medical Services responded to the scene.