Jeff Smith, 36, of Lebanon, Ore. was on his 1949 Ferguson tractor on April 1, trying to pull a stump out of his wife’s garden when, while putting it in reverse, his muddy boot slipped off the clutch. With the tractor chained to the stump, the full weight of the tractor fell backwards, right onto his chest. Pinned, Smith immediately called to his teenage daughters for help.
“I was yelling, ‘Oh God, save me.’ There was enough pressure on me, I didn’t know if anyone could hear me. I had just told them to walk the dogs, then I got on the tractor,” Smith told ABCNews.com. “I didn’t know they were outside, or if anyone would hear.”
Luckily for Smith, Haylee, 13, and her older sister Hannah, 16, were outside walking the neighbor’s dogs at the time. They heard their screaming dad, and within 30 seconds they were by his side, and had started trying to dig him out.
“Originally, they tried to dig a little underneath the tractor to free me up, but it wasn’t working. They couldn’t dig enough. I told them they need to try to lift on the front,” he said. “The first time they lifted it, it gave me a brief moment to get a breath in. I couldn’t move yet. They let it down, and it expelled that breath I got. Then they lifted it again and I was able to wiggle.”
Smith said that with the help of his girls, he was able to twist his body away from tractor, getting it off of his torso. But his arm was still pinned. As Haylee hopped on a 4-wheeler to get help from a neighbor, Hannah continued digging underneath her father to relieve pressure.
“It was helping,” Smith said. “I could feel pressure being relieved.”
The neighbor quickly hopped on his tractor and rushed over, and was able to free Smith using his tractor’s shovel.
Sherry Smith, Jeff’s wife, told ABCNews.com that she was in town buying groceries when she received a call from her daughter. Jeff had told her not to tell her mom what had happened. But she did — and at first her mother didn’t believe her, given that it was April Fools’ Day.
“I said, ‘bulls**t. Let me talk to your dad. Let me talk to the paramedics,” she said. “When they said, ‘this is Lebanon Fire Department EMT,’ I went, ‘what??'”
Sherry Smith said she rushed to the hospital, and got there before the ambulance.
When the ambulance arrived at their home, the paramedics allowed the shaken girls to ride with their dad to the hospital. Though Haylee, who was a little more flustered, had to ride in the front. Hannah rode with her dad in the back.
“Both of them were amazing, how well they stayed composed during this whole thing,” Smith said. “I don’t know if either of them had a chance to stop and think what could have been.”
Sherry said that her husband, who is already back at his job as a millwright manager, is a seeing neurosurgeon and orthopedic. In the end, he escaped with a broken wrist, and said he is regaining some feeling in his forearm, thumb, fingertips and chest. But he’s happy to be alive, and thankful for his girls.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about recognition for them,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t been there.”