University Employee Gets Trapped in Ditch while Mowing Lawn

By: Elizabeth Lamb Email
By: Elizabeth Lamb Email

HARRISONBURG -- James Madison University officials are investigating what emergency workers are calling a freak accident at the school.

Rescue crews lifted a JMU employee from a ditch nearly an hour after they received the first 911 call.

Harrisonburg Fire Department Chief Larry Shifflett said the employee fell in while on a riding lawnmower.

“We've got two people to look our for. We've got our patient and we've got our responders,” said Chief Shifflett.

The employee was trapped under the mower before crews pulled him to safety.

The ditch was part of a project from Columbia Gas. A representative with Columbia Gas said the project is linking new gas pipes to old gas pipes. The pipes are not damaged. The mower and employee landed right beside them.

The employee has minor injuries and Chief Shifflett said the employee's condition helped with the rescue.

“It buys you a little time. You still have to do the same job, but you can slow down a bit and just take that extra second or two to make sure that what you're doing is exactly the right thing to do,” said Chief Shifflett.

The employee went to the hospital.

Billy Wyatt, a JMU spokesperson, is thankful the accident wasn't worse.

“We're grateful that nobody was seriously injured. We're thankful for the first responders who were able to handle the situation professionally and safely,” said Wyatt.

JMU, Columbia Gas and investigators are looking into exactly what happened to keep accidents like this one from happening again.

“We've got to look at both sides of this every time we go into an incident such as this and make sure that we're doing what is necessary and effective to make the rescue, but also to keep our people safe,” said Chief Shifflett.

Chief Shifflett said he's proud of his rescue team and that the employee is doing well.

“In order to do things right, we've got to have a response that gets us enough people to take care of everything we need to take care of,” said Chief Shifflett.

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