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Dog alerts owners to neighbour's cries for help after farm accident with ride-on mower

Wednesday April 14, 2021 - 06:00 EST
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The Hungarian Vizsla heard its neighbour's cries for help and alerted its owners. - ABC

A man severely injured in a farm accident in an area hit by flooding rains just days earlier says he owes his life to his neighbour's dog.

Eighty-one-year old avocado and macadamia farmer Graham Bilbe was working on his Comboyne property south-west of Port Macquarie on the NSW Mid North Coast on Good Friday when his industrial-sized ride-on lawnmower had mechanical trouble.

His partner Virginia Kelk was not home at the time and returned on the only access road into Comboyne after landslides from rain and floods closed the only tarred road in.

"The drive belt snapped, which left him without brakes or steering, and it just took off down the hill and turned over when it got to a bit of a bank and fell on his leg," Ms Kelk said.

"It was a power of will. He pushed the mower off him ? how he lifted it I don't know ? but you do amazing things when you're injured and crawled up the hill until the dog could hear him."

'When he does bark you know something's up'

Timothy Connell was out in the garden working when their dog, Zollie ? a Hungarian Vizsla ? started barking.

"He normally doesn't bark at all and my wife came out thinking I'd done something and saw that I hadn't and I put my machinery down and we could hear a very plaintive cry from our neighbour and ran across the road to find he had this terrible accident," Mr Connell said.

The accident came less than a week after the Mid North Coast was hit with floods, forcing people out of their homes and cutting power to many parts.

Mr Connell said they tried to phone the ambulance and find local people who might be able to help.

"It was just made a little bit more difficult in that the phones weren't working ? our landlines weren't working and we had very patchy mobile coverage, so it was difficult to raise people," he said.

Mr Connell said the incident could have had a very different outcome if Zollie had not heard him. 

"He is an amazing person and managed to crawl up a hill about 50 metres, a very steep hill, with this very traumatic injury and if he hadn't done that I think no-one would have heard him and luckily Zollie was the one who alerted us," he said.

"He had a very special dinner that night but that's about all."

Mr Bilbe's main injury was to his right leg and since being flown to Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital he has had a number of operations.

"They've joined all the broken bones back together and they sewed his calf muscle back on," Ms Kelk said.

"The worst problem is that he got dirt and grass and compost in the wound, so that's what all the operations were for. They were flushing it out and trying to clean his leg. 

"When I went down to John Hunter they were still trying to clean mud out from under his fingernails as he clawed his way up the hill."

How a community works in crisis

Mr Connell said it was reassuring to see how everybody rallied and how people came from all corners to help.

"I know Graham was worried about a number of things that had to get done on the farm and people have just stepped up and done them," he said.

Ms Kelk said her partner was improving every day and she hoped doctors would move him to Port Macquarie Hospital soon but she thought it would be several months before he could come home.

"But he's got a really good farmhand who is running things in his absence," she said.

"He's already running [the farm] from his bed, phoning Geoff and saying 'Now when you turn the compost tomorrow', which I think is good.

"You can't just lie there wallowing in self-pity and he's getting well looked after, so yes as far as possible he's doing a long-distance farm management act."


© ABC 2021

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