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I didn't pay attention to farm safety. I lost my arm and nearly died because of it

William’s plea as 100 die in agricultural accidents since 2000

By Donna Deeney

Published 07/07/2015

William Sayers
William Sayers
William Sayers as a boy

A man who lost his arm in a farm accident aged just 12 has said he wants his experience to be a warning for others to take agricultural safety seriously.

William Sayers (38) had his arm ripped from his body in the moment he decided to adjust machinery attached to the back of a tractor while it was in operation.

His father's stark warning not to touch the lethal power take off (PTO) shaft rang in William's ears as he lay on the ground looking at his arm lying across from him.

Despite real fear that he would not survive, the Dunamanagh man did live to tell the tale.

Since 2000 to the end of May 2015 there have been 100 farming deaths in Northern Ireland.

Now, for Farm Safety Week, William wants others to learn from his own near-fatal mistake.

"I had been working all day with my father and another boy and we had most of the work completed when we went in for our tea," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"With just one more load to do, I told my father we should finish it and went back out again.

"My mother told me to put my coat on, which I did, but I didn't fasten it up so when I adjusted the PTO, it sucked my coat in and that was when my whole life changed.

"In that split second I was pulled over the tanker and threw on to the ground. I came around face down and could only see out of one eye, so my big concern was that.

"Then it dawned on me my clothes had been pulled right from me, that there was an arm lying across from me and it was mine.

"The first thing that went through my head was my father's warning not to touch the PTO and that I had disobeyed him.

"I managed to get up on my feet and make my way back over to our house, which was about 200 yards away. I wasn't in any pain, I wasn't in tears.

"My father immediately told me to hold tight to my wound and put me in the car, and I remember as we left for hospital looking back at my mother standing in the doorway with her hand over her mouth and thinking that would be the last time I saw her. My sister Jane, who was 17 at the time, ran to the field and got my arm and packed it in ice, but we were already on our way to Altnagelvin Hospital so it came in the ambulance behind us.

"On the way I was still really calm and I remember my father saying to me: 'You are going to die son'. But I told him he shouldn't drive so fast, there was no point in both of us dying."

William survived his injury after a stint in intensive care, and while the future he had planned as a farmer did not pan out, he carved a career for himself as a farm machinery salesman, which keeps him in close contact with the farming community.

William added: "I was the only boy in the family and my father was looking forward to me taking over the farm, not least because he too had had an accident which left him with only one leg.

"That wasn't even the only farming tragedy to hit the family.

"My uncle William, when he was 25, was killed when a tractor overturned on him.

"I wouldn't begin to tell anyone how to work their farm but I would like them to look at me and learn how quickly life can change and remind them to take five minutes and think about risks.

"Not everyone is as lucky as me and survives in the face of such a bad accident."


There were 100 confirmed farming deaths in Northern Ireland between 2000 and the end of May 2015.

The causes were:

  • Slurry — 11
  • Animals — 24
  • Falls (from height) — 19
  • Equipment — 39
  • Other — 7

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