Young hero hailed

Jim Barnes and Fletcher Aitken standing in front of the hole that emergency crews cut in a hedge to extract Mr Barnes after the accident. 188922_04 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Kyra Gillespie

A 13-year-old Guys Hill boy has been hailed a hero after running to the aid of his elderly neighbour who was involved a nasty lawnmower accident.

Fletcher Aitken was walking home from school when he heard a faint cry for help; his neighbour Jim Barnes had tipped his ride-on mower on a steep hill, pinning himself under the heavy machine.

The 72-year-old Vietnam veteran spent four hours calling for help while stuck under the running Massey Ferguson 2520 mower.

“After three hours I started getting worried; my leg was completely stuck underneath the mower and I started losing feeling in my foot. I really thought I was going to lose my foot,” Mr Barnes said.

“I’ve been driving tractors for 50-odd years and had a couple of accidents in that time, but this was the first time I’ve really been scared.”

Despite being home alone, schoolboy Fletcher didn’t hesitate to act; first calling his mother to check what to do before running over a kilometre to his neighbour’s aid.

“I had just got off the school bus and I heard someone calling for help. I was the only one home at the time, so I called Mum to ask her what I should do. She told me to check on our neighbour Jimmy,” Fletcher said.

“When I ran up there I found him underneath the mower; he was shaking but talking fine. He told me to go to the shed and get a jack to try and move it off his leg. When that didn’t work he told me to get help.

“I ran inside his house and called Mum, who then called the ambulance. I just sat with him until help arrived.”

Police, paramedics and SES teams were quickly on scene, and had to cut out a large hole in a hedge in order to extract Mr Barnes from the steep embankment.

He was then transported to hospital by ambulance.

Fletcher’s mum Beryl Aitken was working near Cheltenham at the time of the accident.

“I wasn’t home at the time which was the hardest part; I tried calling all the neighbours but no-one was home. I couldn’t get there fast enough,” Ms Aitken said.

“Jimmy knows the kids walk home from school around 4pm and that’s why he did lots of yelling and calling out. His property is around 1.5km away – we all live on big properties so it’s not like we’re right next door – so it’s actually really lucky that Fletcher heard him at all.

“It was also his last day of school, and it was a really hot day; if it had happened the next day who knows if anyone would have heard him? It could have been much worse.”

Police who attended the scene were so impressed by Fletcher’s efforts that they are considering nominating him for Ambulance Victoria’s Community Hero Awards.

“Fletcher saw that someone was in trouble and he acted,” Emerald Police Sergeant Dave Calkin said.

Mr Barnes is now back home and recovering well.

He is grateful to his young neighbour for his quick-thinking deed.

“Fletcher has done a fantastic job; I don’t know how long I would have been stuck there for if it wasn’t for him,” Mr Barnes said.

“People don’t realise how easy it is to get in trouble with mowers and tractors; they’re all quite dangerous.

“This won’t slow me down though – I’ll be back on it tomorrow.”

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