A logger was airlifted Thursday after he tried to jump from his log skidder and had the piece of heavy machinery roll over his body.
Terry Roberts was airlifted to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga following the accident deep in the woods at the foot of Harrison Ferry Mountain.
According to eyewitness Troy Fults, he was standing next to the log skidder Roberts was driving. He said Roberts was trying to pull two logs up a steep embankment when the skidder lost power which triggered the accident.
"When it started spinning its wheels, that killed the motor," said Fults. "He jumped to try to get away but it rolled over him. That's 17 tons of rolling metal. He was run over by one of the tires."
Fults said that when skidders stall and lose power, the operator is helpless to control the machinery. When it happens on such a steep embankment, there's no way to prevent the equipment from rolling down the hill, Fults said.
"You're better off to stay in there and try to ride it out, but it all happens so fast you don't have time to think," said Fults. "Your flight instinct just takes over."
The two were logging an area off Harrison Ferry Road with Ronny Priest, who survived a similar accident four years ago. Priest didn't see what happened Thursday morning, but he heard it.
"By the sound of the hollering, I knew something bad had happened," said Priest. "I hate to see this because I had the same thing happen to me four years ago. When the engine dies, it's gone. There's nothing you can do about it. Logging is the most dangerous job in the world. You don't know if you're going to walk in to work and have to be carried out."
Priest said Roberts was lucky to be so close to the skid loader when it rolled over him. It was also said the tire is the best part to have roll over you since it has a large surface area which serves to displace the weight.
"I've been in several logging accidents," said Priest. "Looking back at them, I've often thought about what I could do differently and I don't know what I could have done. There's really not anything you can do."
The accident took place in a remote area several hundred yards from a makeshift logging road. Emergency responders had to labor to pull Roberts up the side of the mountain and that was just to reach an area that could be accessed by a Gator. Stumps and limbs littered the terrain and it was difficult for the Gator to reach Roberts.
The life flight helicopter made its landing at nearby Collins River Golf Course. Roberts was conscious at the scene and alerting medical personnel to his level of pain.