WILLIAM Sayers freely admits he was very lucky to have survived a horrific farm accident back in 1990, that saw him lose an arm in a tussle with a pto shaft.

It was quite a devastating blow to the young 12 year old boy from Donemana in Northern Ireland, and his family, but he is using his personal experience to raise awareness and help prevent other farm accidents.

For the past 27 years, William, now 44, has worked in sales for the Massey Ferguson dealership, D and M Farm Services Ltd in Eglinton, County Londonderry.

It’s a job he adores as it gets him out and about onto farms discussing the farmer’s tractor requirements as well as other machinery.

That might be the day job but William also enjoys talking about his accident to others and has become an ambassador to promote farm safety.

Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world and that is evident from the startling statistics from the UK’s Health and Safety Executive.

Sadly, there were 46 people killed in farm related accidents in the UK during 2020 and 2021. During that same timeframe there were a further 12,000 people injured in accidents related to farming, forestry and fishing.

William lost his arm on Easter Monday 1990 after the coat he was wearing got caught up in the pto shaft of a slurry tanker while he and a 16 year old friend were filling it with slurry.

William said: “It just happened in an instant. The next thing I knew I was lying on the ground and could see my right arm lying across the yard. I knew I had lost it but it still felt that I still had a right arm.

“The biggest issue I had was that I has disobeyed my father who had told me not to go near the pto shaft. The fear I saw in both his and my mother’s eyes as I ran up to the house has left me with an immense sense of guilt ever since.”

The pto shaft on the tanker was fully guard except for a few inches at the top. William was wearing a coat his mother had asked him to put on during the last load of slurry as it was getting colder in the evening.

As William went to adjust the regulator on the tanker pump to help it fill quicker, the shaft caught his coat, which wasn’t zipped, and dragged him in.

“I thought I was dying,” said William. “All I was wearing after the shaft caught me was my underwear. My dad rushed me to hospital as my sister Jane picked up my arm and washed it. The hospital actually sent an ambulance out to the farm for my arm and later tried to sew it back on but without success.”

William’s family farm was a dairy farm and his father had set it up with a new milking parlour for him to take over one day. Sadly, that day never came as it was impossible to milk cows with one arm.

Today the farm is home to a few suckler cows and William still goes there to check on his father, George, who is now 85. His mother Kathleen sadly passed away a few years ago.

William has been married to his wife Elaine for the past 16 years and together they have three daughters Lydia, 15, Grace, 12, and Bethany, 10.

“I’m very happy working as a sales representative for D and M Farm Services,” William said. “I am very thankful that the owners, Jim Dinsmore and William Moore, took me on all those years ago.

“It’s amazing how tractor and machinery technology has evolved over the years. I keep well up to date with all the new products released by Massey Ferguson, moreso via online training courses these days. My job is quite varied and I never know what each day will bring,” he said.

Prior to his accident William was right-handed and has had to learn how to write all over again, this time with the left hand. Driving is not a problem for William who has never let his disability stand in his way.

He said: “I’ve never been affected mentally by the accident, which is remarkable. My father, who lost one of his legs in a farm accident when he was only two years old, was very supportive over the years and helped me a lot. I also lost my uncle William, who I was named after, in a tractor accident when he was only 25 years old.

“I’ve had to learn to do a lot of normal tasks like writing, tying my laces and buttoning my shirt with the left hand, but I’ve mastered them all.

“My message to farmers is very strong today. It is your own responsibility to ensure you work safe and in a safe environment. There are plenty of warnings from various agri groups and bodies urging farmers to heed the safety advice.

“People think accidents like mine never happen to them, but they can and do. I did not heed my own father’s instructions and I paid a heavy price for that. If my story can help prevent someone having an accident, losing their arm, being seriously injured or even losing their life, then it is worthwhile for me telling it,” he said.

In his role as a farm safety ambassador William volunteers his time to talk to farmers groups, young farmers, church groups and anyone who asks to hear his story.

He also gets calls from people who have already had an accident and lost limbs and need someone to talk to.

“I’ve had a number of people call me who have lost a limb during an accident and need someone to talk to for moral support and advice. I will talk to anyone, anytime, if they want and am very happy to do so,” said William.

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