By Ted Waddell
NORTH BRANCH November 11, 2003 On Sunday, October 19, Brion Ebert took the day off to help his folks keep the family farm running up on Dyker Road in North Branch.
But that day took a horrible turn when he was seriously injured after his shirt got caught in a power takeoff (PTO) attached to a tractor.
Ebert, 36, who lives in Easton, Pa. with his wife Nancy and their two-year-old daughter Samantha, spent the afternoon loading corn into a silo at his parents farm when the PTO snagged his shirt, dragging him into the spinning driveshaft and causing grievous injuries.
As the shaft pulled Ebert into the whirling machinery, it ripped his shirt into shreds before leaving him moaning on the ground, covered in blood.
He sustained life-threatening injuries, including eight broken ribs and a twisted spine. Less serious injuries included numerous contusions and lacerations.
According to authorities, John Ebert discovered his critically injured son on the ground next to the tractor at approximately 4 p.m., then rushed back to their farmhouse and called 911.
John and Rose Crotty, owners of Crottys Auto Parts in Jeffersonville, were home enjoying a cup of tea when they heard the emergency call go out over the EMS network.
It sounded like a difficulty breathing call, recalled John Crotty, an EMT with the Jeffersonville First Aid Corps for seven years. In addition, hes been a member of the Callicoon Center Volunteer Fire Department for more than 20 years.
It sounded like it was right nearby, so Rose and I thought we might as well go up there, added Crotty.
After Crotty made sure he had his EMT crash bag in their car, Rose got behind the wheel and sped so fast down their driveway, the car was airborne for a split-second.
As we were pulling in, we saw the victims father, and he pointed out where we should go, said Crotty. He was right there, doing everything he could for his son.
Ive seen John in tragedy before, when several years ago he lost his barn to a fire, added Crotty.
You couldnt ask for better neighbors. . . . Theyre wonderful people.
While assessing the extent of Eberts injuries and starting to administer bottled oxygen, Crotty yelled to his wife to contact the countys 911 center and request the immediate response of a paramedic unit and a helicopter for medical evacuation.
When we got there, Brion was laying on the ground and really moaning, said Rose Crotty. He had lots of lacerations under his arms, and he was blue, barely breathing. It was pretty bad.
John kept saying, Brion, stay awake, stay with me, dont fall asleep, she added.
Afterwards, Rose Crotty walked over to the scene of the nearly fatal farm accident and described what she saw.
He didnt have anything left on his upper body. . . . There were all these little pieces of his clothing on the ground, she said.
Brion and the family need a lot of support, added Crotty. Its going to be a tough road for him.
Ebert was airlifted from the scene to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla by StatFlight.
Advanced life support was provided at the scene by local paramedic Kevin Kelly. Volunteer firefighters from the North Branch Fire Department set up the emergency landing zone.
On Tuesday, October 28, Ebert underwent surgery to fuse his shattered spine but remains paralyzed from the waist down, reportedly due to a severed spinal cord.
While most of Eberts quietly spoken but highly respected family declined to be interviewed, his father talked briefly about the accident.
The operation went better than expected, he said softly. His upper body is good, but hes going to spend his life in a wheelchair.
Its a tragedy well have to live with, he added. Things will work out.
A couple of weeks after the accident, John Crotty took to task farm machinery manufacturers and laws governing safety on the farm.
Its criminal what the industry does to farmers, he said. They get lip service and second-rate machinery, and theyre getting screwed by safety regulations. Farming is as dangerous as sin, and nobodys looking out for them . . . and theyre paying a hell of a price.
What would the Eberts next-door neighbor of 27 years say to the family?
Were just so damn sorry, replied Crotty. He comes up here all the time to help his father keep the farm going. Its an honorable thing to do. Its really tragic, and everyone is upset to hell over this!
Pastor Kris Anderson of Grace Lutheran Church in North Branch and First Lutheran Church in Jeffersonville has known Ebert for six years. His mother Lorraine is the church organist.
Hes a nice guy who would help out anybody, she said. Hes very quiet part of a shy family, the kind of people who are always there when you need them.
Indeed, Ebert grew up on the farm of his parents. He was baptized in Grace Lutheran Church, and in 1987 he graduated from Jeffersonville-Youngsville High School.
He works in the computer field down in NJ but is a regular face back in his hometown on weekends, working on the farm and going to church.
Now in the wake of the tragic farming accident, the Brion Ebert family needs some help from the community.
As word of the extent of Eberts injuries spread throughout the area, people rallied to host a benefit baked ziti dinner at the North Branch Firehouse on November 22.
Pastor Anderson said that, to date, several organizations have already sent in donations: both local Lutheran churches, the Methodist church in White Sulphur Springs, members of the Order of the Eastern Star and volunteer firefighters from Callicoon, North Branch and Youngsville.
In addition, the First National Bank of Jeffersonville is accepting checks made out to The Brion Ebert Fund.
The benefit baked ziti dinner at the North Branch Firehouse will be held Saturday, November 22 from 4:30 p.m to 7 p.m. The cost is $7, and takeouts will be available.
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans will match dollar for dollar up to $5,000 raised for the Ebert family in their time of need.
For more information, call Pastor Kris Anderson at 482-3224 or Traci Myers at 482-3039.