Man trapped in mud for hours while searching for $20,000 falcon is rescued

A man in his 70s was stuck in the mud in Massachusetts for more than two hours Thursday after looking for his prized, $20,000 falcon in a nearby swamp.
Caption
A man in his 70s was stuck in the mud in Massachusetts for more than two hours Thursday after looking for his prized, $20,000 falcon in a nearby swamp.

Credit: Westborough Fire Department

Credit: Westborough Fire Department

man in his 70s was stuck in the mud in Massachusetts for more than two hours Thursday after looking for his prized, $20,000 falcon in a nearby swamp. William Johnston Jr. is a master falconer and was hunting for ducks when he lost track of his falcon and went looking for it.

"I pulled myself out of the water and the mud, and I started to shake and started to suffer hypothermia," Johnston told WFXT. "And I had 1% left on my phone, so I used that to call 911, and they were just fantastic, and I just can't say enough good things about the Westborough rescue team (and) (emergency medical technicians)."

The location of the rescue made it very difficult for firefighters. Despite their training, it's very rare that they are wearing a cold-weather survival suit and operating a chain saw at the same time."(Johnston) was fortunate that he had his cellphone. He was by himself," said Deputy Chief Jason Ferschke, of the Westborough Fire Department. "That type of environment isn't easy to get through on a normal day, but putting yourself in a suit really hampers any movement."

When they reached him in the area off of Flanders Road, Johnston was cold but uninjured.

“He had perched himself up on a stump and had been able to keep himself out of the wet stuff,” said Barry Sullivan, of the Westborough Fire Department. “He was cold and tired.”

They then had to bring him back out.

“It was an inch of ice. You couldn’t stand on it,” said Chris DuBois, of the Westborough Fire Department. “You had to push your way through the underbrush, and once we found him, we had to make sure we kept him above water.”

They carried him part of the way back, then used an ATV to bring him to a waiting ambulance.

“They really worked hard to get me out of there. They bushwhacked in with a chain saw, and the guys were wearing the suits that they do for water rescue," Johnston said. “It was cold. I was shivering, and they were sweating just getting me out of there, which they did, and they just transported me to UMass.”

Johnston returned home from the hospital Thursday night.

“If I didn’t have my cellphone, my wife would be planning,” Johnston said. “I couldn’t have gotten out by myself, I’ll tell you that.”

His falcon has a GPS tracker and was recovered by Westborough firefighter Mark Boyer, who volunteered during his time off to find the bird of prey, the Fire Department said Saturday. The falcon was taken to a veterinary clinic for treatment.