Panic in the farmyard almost costs farm worker Matt dear

Matt Rogers suffered a horrific leg injury working with a combine harvester.
Matt Rogers suffered a horrific leg injury working with a combine harvester.
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When Matt Rogers leapt from his tractor on July 27 four years ago he was in a state of panic.

The combine harvester that he had tried to jump-start began moving forward. He had been behind it using a chain to give it a tug so that the engine would turn over but he had left the stopper in and this meant the combine was under way. Inside the next minute his life flashed before him.

Farm machinery incidents have seen many fatalities over the years and Matt was well on his way to becoming another statistic at Low Farm in Ebberston between Thornton le Dale and Scarborough.

In fact, agriculture, forestry and fishing is the riskiest sector in UK industry.

In 2013-14 the Health and Safety Executive reported 27 fatalities of which nearly half - 48 per cent - were farm workers.

For Matt, as the combine rolled towards him, those following 60 seconds saw him transformed from a fit, healthy young man to someone who the surgeons said would never walk properly again.

Now, Matt is keen to tell his tale so that others might learn from his mistake.

“I’d bought this vintage combine harvester off eBay, but there was an issue with the starter motor and it wasn’t engaging with the ring gear.

“I’d become used to getting it under way by using a tractor and chain and I must have done it about 40 or 50 times this way.

“You know that it is better to have two people around when you are doing this but when you’re on your own you just get on and do it as safely as you can.”

Matt explained: “The method is a bit like bumping a car off to get it going, but of course in my case just to get the engine going. Unfortunately for me the combine started moving and that’s when I panicked. It was stupid really as it was only moving very slowly and no-one was in danger except me because of what I did next.

“I jumped from the JCB ran around the combine, past the combine header on one side to get around to the side that had the ladder to the combine seat. But I never reached the ladder.

“At that side the combine was running close to the stanchions of the straw shed and as I passed around the front the left hand side of the header jolted towards the RSJ stanchion pinning my leg and stopping the combine.

“I stood there, trapped and could feel my foot going cold. I knew that if blood didn’t get back into it quickly then I might lose it.

“I was okay in myself because I think my adrenaline had taken over. I wouldn’t particularly say it hurt. It’s odd but if you prick yourself very lightly it seems to hurt much more, but I knew I had messed up big time.

“Luckily Sue (Kirby) the farmer’s wife where I’ve worked on and off since I was 16 heard me hollering. She came running to help and alerted the emergency services. Sue also managed to release the tension on my leg just sufficiently to allow the blood to circulate back to my foot.”

Matt’s femur had been snapped into three pieces, flesh was hanging from his leg but fortunately for him the femoral artery and sciatic nerve were still intact.

“If the artery had gone I’d have bled to death as simple as that and if I’d been working anywhere else where no-one at all was around even if I’d survived I may have lost my leg completely.

“I’m so grateful to Sue, the emergency services, the air ambulance and everyone who looked after me at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.”

Matt now has a metal rod that he believes is stainless steel in his leg from his knee to his hip.

He also had to have a muscle and skin transplant from under his arm to across his shoulder to patch him back up with the necessary elements to create a functioning left leg.

At the time of his treatment, Matt was told by those who looked after him that he would never walk on the injured leg again and that he had certainly no chance of getting behind the wheel to drive.

But Matt astounded the doctors by managing to both walk on the leg and drive again just three months after he was patched up in hospital.

He said he knew how lucky he had been, both that the injury had not been more serious and costly, and that he was able to function on his injured leg once more.

“I have been incredibly lucky but this is a reminder to everyone just how dangerous farms really are,” he said.

“I didn’t need to do what I did - but I panicked. If I had been totally isolated I don’t think I would have survived.

“We all love the jobs we do but it is also important to think about getting home at night in one piece, and alive.”

It will perhaps come as little surprise to learn that Matt opted to send the old combine harvester, that nearly cost him so dearly, to the scrap heap when the price of scrap metal increased.

More to Matt than farming

Matt Rogers, 32, was born in Bridlington and has worked on and around arable and livestock farms all his working life.

He is well known in Driffield as both a DJ and as the Deputy Mayor, a role he has undertaken for the past three years.

He works as a pastoral manager at Longcroft School in Beverley and part-time at weekends, evenings and school holidays at the Kirbys’ two farms in Ebberston, at Low Farm and High Park Farm.

His dream is to have a small farm of his own. He rents a handful of acres near Driffield where he keeps a few sheep and about 100 chickens.