Minnesota man rescued after 4 days trapped under fallen tree

Published 6:02 pm Friday, September 4, 2020

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REDWOOD FALLS  — A man has been rescued after he was pinned under a tree for more than four days while working on his land in southern Minnesota, officials said.

Jonathan Ceplecha, 59, was cutting down oak trees Aug. 27 near Redwood Falls when a one of them fell and landed on his legs, according to the Redwood County Sheriff’s Office. He was found Monday in a ravine about 100 yards (91 meters) from his house with both of his legs pinned.

“I was with him Monday in the hospital and he was kind of getting how he was able to keep from panicking, which was by breaking up the days into hours and then breaking up the hours into 5-minute segments so that he could have little victories throughout the day that would give him little pieces of hope,” said his son, Miles Ceplecha. “He just tried to keep his mind distracted.”

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Deputies responded to Jonathan Ceplecha’s home after getting a call Monday afternoon asking for a welfare check since he hadn’t shown up for work, according to Chief Deputy Mark Farasyn. They found no sign of him and began searching the rugged property with help from his ex-wife and daughter.

Despite the long ordeal, Farasyn said Ceplecha was conscious and surprisingly alert after being found. Farasyn asked him how long he’d been there, and Ceplecha responded “100 hours,” without hesitation, KARE-TV reported.

“He had the will to live, and he wasn’t ready to go,” Farasyn said. Ceplecha is an Iraq War veteran and his training probably helped him survive, Farasyn added.

It took about two hours for the Redwood Falls Fire Department to free Ceplecha, who teaches English at an alternative high school in Marshall. He was airlifted to a hospital, where he was in stable condition.