Tennessee Farmer Suffers Broken Vertebrae, Survives Airborne Combine Accident

by Jennifer Shea
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Farmer Matt Griggs survived a traumatic combine accident in which a 35,000-pound machine threw him headfirst from the control box and through the windshield at 20 mph.

“This should have been impossible for anyone to walk away from. Impossible,” Griggs told Farm Journal. “Listen to the details and you’ll know that what happened to me has nothing to do with luck or coincidence. Since when do combines stop on a dime?”

Griggs, 40, lives in west Tennessee with his wife Kelly. The farmer grows corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat. And he’s the fifth generation to tend the land his family bought in 1882.

The accident occurred on a day when everything seemed to be going to plan. It was September 22; the corn harvest was done. Griggs had spent the morning hauling grain. Things went awry quickly sometime after 1 p.m. 

Griggs had pulled onto the blacktop of a narrow two-lane road. He was in the dip between two crests, with a culvert crossing the road at the bottom of the dip.

When Griggs ran across the culvert, the header on his combine unlatched and the top bar fell out of the feeder on the cradle house. The header nose tipped over as it separated from the combine.

The tires ran into the toppled header, and that propelled the combine through the air. Griggs was thrown from his seat. 

“I never had a chance to even hit the brakes,” he told Farm Journal. “The combine went in flight and when the front wheels came down, it came down more on the left, and I started getting thrown from side to side inside the cab. I’d say I bounced five to six times, before going through the windshield. I remember hitting the driver’s door, then the right glass, then back to the left side of the steering wheel, and then going through intact glass that broke when I went through. I can’t remember nothing else.”

Griggs suffered four broken ribs, a fractured vertebrae in his back, cuts all over his arms and back, wounds on his head and a road rash. But he still managed to climb up off the road into the combine, shut it down, and radio his wife for help. 

Kelly was out. But luckily, two neighbors happened by, and one of them called her cell. Kelly called an ambulance and more neighbors for help.  

“Farming communities react so fast,” Kelly told Farm Journal. “The sheriff was driving 90 miles per hour to get here. Dr. Revelle, who works in the ER, heard about a combine accident on his scanner and came to find out what happened, and he later took such good care of us.”

It took five hours at the hospital to fix the farmer up, but he survived the accident. He believes it was God’s doing that the combine stopped after careening over the header. 

“I know 30,000 lb. of steel going 20 mph can’t stop on a dime,” Griggs told Farm Journal. He acknowledged that he failed to secure the header fully and he neglected to buckle his seat belt. 

But he added: “I fall short all the time, but I know who I believe in and I know where I’m going when this life ends. Tomorrow is no guarantee.”

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