Boyhood accident spurs farmer to encourage 'safety first' message
An horrific accident at just 12 years old changed William Sears' life forever. Now the son of a Co Londonderry dairy farmer is spreading the message about farm safety to ensure no-one else suffers the same fate.
William was helping a friend spread slurry on Easter Monday 1990 - a day he remembers like yesterday - when a moving part on a tractor caught his coat and tore his arm out of its socket.
The accident happened at Dunamanagh, outside Strabane, 11 miles from the nearest hospital.
Speaking at the Balmoral Show, he told the Belfast Telegraph: "My friend was helping me, he was 16. I was the only son of a farmer so we had been out all day spreading slurry. It was a quarter to eight at night when my mum called us in for tea.
"I was going out past the window when my mother called out for me to put on a coat. I didn't bother zipping it up because I was only doing one load of slurry.
"Everything was going to plan - the shaft was fully guarded bar a bit missing about two inches at the front end."
As William adjusted a vacuum pump at the back of the tractor, disaster stuck.
Part of his coat caught on the tractor's Power Take Off (PTO) shaft, a connection which moves so fast it can take in up to 17 feet of material in one second.
"As quick as I can click my fingers it was all over.
"I was lying with my face and my nose on the ground thinking I had been killed," he said.
"I could see Jonathan who was on the tractor disappearing. I remember getting up on my feet and it was only my underwear and a pair of socks on me and there was an arm lying beside me - and that was my arm. Because of the impact, my right eye swelled up and I couldn't see. I walked back to the house and my sister said she could just see someone walking up the street with one arm. My dad came running out and got me into the car.
"There was so much blood coming out of the wound and I was holding on to it. My dad said, 'You're going to bleed inwards - you're going to die shortly'."
Doctors were unable to save William's arm, but just 16 days later he found himself back on a tractor and helping to spread slurry again.
"My faith has become very strong because when you are in that situation you have nothing else other than faith.
"I have no qualms in saying it was my fault - my father told me what to do but I didn't listen.
"It's very important for me to get the message of farm safety out there, but I don't want the Health and Safety Executive to hammer farmers - I want them to work in tandem.
"You are born into farming, it's your job that you are born into. But I want them to have a bit of common sense.
"I'm a father of three children and I don't want anyone to have to be that person who's watching their son walk down the lane covered in blood. I can feel and understand how I felt, but I can never even start to imagine how that felt for my parents."