Trapped farmer rescued after letter carrier hears cries for help

February 11, 1994|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Sun Staff Writer

A post office letter carrier got the credit yesterday for possibly saving the life of a 71-year-old farmer whose leg was trapped between the wheel and fender of his tractor in subfreezing temperatures for more than an hour.

Russell Ray of the 5600 block of Olde Oak Drive, between Mount Airy and Taylorsville, was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore after fire and rescue workers freed him.

A hospital spokeswoman said Mr. Ray had no major injuries and was to be released last evening.

The farmer told state police he was taking the tractor to a far corner of his farm to check on a cow that had fallen on the ice and was unable to get up.

When he stopped the tractor on a hill near the animal and got off, the tractor began sliding on the ice. Mr. Ray said he tried to climb back on to stop it.

His left leg became wedged in the well between the wheel and the fender, trapping the man, who has two artificial knees, police said.

The letter carrier, Bob Warfield of Woodbine, later told colleagues at the Mount Airy post office that he was delivering mail on the cul-de-sac and heard Mr. Ray calling, "Help me, help me!"

Mr. Warfield said he got out of his vehicle and started up the 100-yard, ice-covered driveway, falling three times before he reached the tractor.

He said Mr. Ray had been trapped for at least 30 minutes before Mr. Warfield arrived.

The letter carrier went to a nearby house and called 911. He said he then climbed the hill and stayed near the farmer until emergency crews arrived.

Lt. Jim Crum of the Mount Airy Fire Company said rescue workers were hampered by the ice on the steep driveway and had to use power tools to spread the fender away from Mr. Ray's leg to extricate him from the tractor.

The rescue took about 40 minutes, he said.

Fire and rescue workers tied a rope from one of their vehicles, parked on the road, to trees along the driveway. After putting Mr. Ray into a wire frame basket, they slid him down the slope while they held onto the rope and, in a sitting position, came down beside the victim.

Fire equipment from Mount Airy, Winfield and Lisbon in Howard County took part in the rescue. Four-wheel-drive utility vehicles equipped with chains in the rear were needed to climb the steep driveway.

A co-worker at the Mount Airy post office said Mr. Warfield has been a letter carrier for about 35 years and transferred to Mount Airy after spending many years in Olney, Montgomery County.

She said the fact that letter carriers ride with the window of their vehicle down allowed Mr. Warfield to hear the call for help. Someone driving on that same road with the windows up might not have heard the man.

A Taylorsville veterinarian, who did not want to be identified, said it was necessary to euthanize the cow Mr. Ray had been trying to reach, because "she had torn herself badly in the fall."

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