Impaled farmer thanks saviour firefighters

A farmer who survived being impaled by a metal tractor spike has met firefighters and medics to thank them for saving his life.

Graham Heatley, 52, was impaled by an 18in baling prong which pierced his abdomen and came out of the other side of his body.

The Shropshire beef farmer had been removing black plastic from a three-quarter tonne hay bale on his cattle farm when the accident happened.

He had his back to his Deutz 110hp tractor when it rolled forward and slowly skewered him, pinning him to the hay. Luckily, the 4cm thick spike missed his vital organs.

“I don’t think I applied the handbrake properly on the tractor because I began to feel the fork going into me and there was nothing I could do about it,” said Mr Heatley recalling the accident, which took place on his farm in February .

“I could feel the prong going through my back and into the hay so I was trapped.”

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His neighbour Henry Rook, 23, heard his screams for help and alerted emergency services.

Firefighters from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service arrived within minutes at Grange Farm in Lyneal, near Ellesmere.

John Deakin, crew manager at Ellesmere Fire Station (pictured below with Mr Heatley), said: “I liaised with the doctor to find out how much time we had to get him out.

“We were talking to Graham throughout telling him what we were doing and he was quite amazing.”
John Deakin, Ellesmere Fire Station crew manager

“Our initial thoughts were to cut the spike off but it was made of thick and hardened steel and our Holmatro cutting gear wouldn’t get through it.

“We considered using acetylene to cut it but that was flawed because the heat would transfer along the metal spike and into Graham’s body. The only way was to take the prong off the machine and leave it inside Graham while he was taken to hospital.”

Working closely with the doctor and ambulance crew, four firefighters held the farmer’s body steady while colleagues used WD40 to loosen a nut, clamp it and hammer the prong free.

“We were talking to Graham throughout telling him what we were doing and he was quite amazing. We had to tap the bar with a hammer to free it and Graham knew about that,” added Mr Deakin, whose full-time job is a line manager for a robotics milking firm.

With the spike sticking out of his body, firefighters carefully laid Mr Heatley on his side and put him onto a stretcher.

He was airlifted to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire and surgeons operate to remove the spike, which had narrowly missed piercing arteries and organs.

Mr Heatley was released after less than a week and is recovering well from his ordeal at home.