A STONEMASON is recovering in hospital after being trapped in an overturned digger for 17 hours.
An extensive rescue operation swung into action when the man was found seriously injured, and suffering from hypothermia, in the upsidedown digger on land at his home in Co Clare.
Mark Ranalow (36) was able to speak about his ordeal from his bed at Limerick Regional Hospital last night. A well-known stonemason, he was operating the mini-digger on Sunday to clear trees and branches from lands at the rear of the family home at Gortgloss when the accident happened around 6pm.
His ordeal trapped in the upside-down digger continued throughout Sunday and through the hours of darkness until 11am yesterday, when his father Frank discovered him.
Firefighters had to stabilise the digger and use cutting equipment to remove him from the machine. He was rushed by ambulance to a local sportsfield, where a helicopter was waiting to fly him to hospital.
The helicopter took just a few minutes to reach the hospital. The same journey by road ambulance would have taken over an hour.
A close family member told the Irish Independent: "Mark is thankfully out of danger now. He's okay and has been chatting in the bed. Our family would like to thank everybody who helped him.
"Everyone involved in the rescue were fantastic."
Emergency services rushed to the scene on the shores of Gortglass Lough, about 4km from Kildysart and 27km from Ennis.
The injured man was transported by road to Kildysart GAA pitch, where club personnel as well as members of the village's defibrillator committee cleared the pitch of mini-goalposts to allow the helicopter to land.
One local man said: "He was clearing trees and branches up behind the old schoolhouse, as far as we know.
"I think he lived in a mobile home behind the parents' home, so that's probably why he wasn't missed earlier.
"The fire brigade and ambulances were here a good while, then they took him down to the pitch in Kildysart for the helicopter," he added.
Local councillor Olive Garry said: "I know the family very well. They've lived up at Gortglass for many years. It's a good thing he was found when he was, and that Sunday night wasn't frosty like previous nights."