Man run over by his own tractor

Published 3:47 pm Monday, April 21, 2008

A rural Albert Lea man was run over by his tractor and then the tractor careened into Wedge Creek.

Doug Vandegrift, who is either 85 or 86 years old, was burning grass in the right of way between the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and Minnesota Highway 13 on Monday afternoon. His mid-20th-century gray Ford Tractor was parked and had a tank of water on the rear platform.

According to Freeborn County sheriff’s deputy Corey Farris, he started the tractor while standing beside it. The machine was in gear, so it lurched forward and ran him over with a large rear wheel. It continued moving forward until it spilled headlong into Wedge Creek, not far from where the creek come underneath the tracks. The tractor didn’t tip over but remained standing on its front hydraulic lifter.

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Vandegrift laid injured on the ground while the small flames burned. With a cell phone he called his wife, then he called 911. Soon, Manchester Township and Albert Lea firefighters, Freeborn County sheriff’s deputies and an ambulance crew from Albert Lea Medical Center arrived.

So did Vandegrift’s wife and a few friends.

While the medical team placed Vandegrift in the ambulance, firefighters doused the grass fire. Most of the fire was on the north end of the black burned patch, but one small blaze on the south was close to the ambulance crew. Manchester Township firefighter Cari Squires noticed it, and called for a fire truck to park near it. She and firefighter Paul Jensen put the low-level flames out.

Farris said Vandegrift was in stable condition when the ambulance left. The Mayo One helicopter was notified. As of the writing of this report, it was undetermined whether the patient would be transported on the chopper.

Friends Les and Mark Ackland came to pull the tractor out of the creek. Mark brought a heavy tow rope and Les brought a John Deere tractor. Deputies halted southbound traffic on Highway 13 as Mark sat on the old Ford as Les pulled it out of the creek with the John Deere. They drove the two tractors away. Meanwhile, the firefighters had finished fighting the grass fires, put their hoses away and drove away.