Written By: Leah Chester-Davis
Faced with the choice of cutting off your arm or burning to death, which unthinkable choice would you make? For Sampson Parker, of Cabarrus County, the incredible will to survive and to not put his family in the situation of finding him burned to death behind his corn picker, compelled him to fight against all odds.
Sampson, as a project superintendent for Blythe Construction, is accustomed to the importance of safety protocols as he supervises crews on heavy highway interstate construction such as I-85. “I preach safety every day on the job to my guys,” he says. But it was on his small farm that a split second decision changed his life.
Sampson is a 6’3” outdoorsman who loves to farm and deer and duck hunt. On September 11, 2007, he was taking a break from construction work to harvest his corn crop that he raised for his own use and to sell to other deer hunters. At the time, he owned a small farm in Camden, South Carolina, where the accident happened. He recently bought a farm in Cabarrus County.
“It was harvest season and I was in a hurry to get down there. My plan was to pick a load of corn, a wagon full, then get back to work that afternoon on the job. Just as soon as I got to the farm, I jumped out of my truck. I was in a hurry to get it done. That was probably one of the biggest things, just being in too big of a hurry to get it done,” he says as he reflects on what contributed to that split second decision that nearly cost him his life.
Things Change in a Split Second
Sampson had his wagon full of corn and was headed back to the barn when he noticed the tire on the tractor was flat. He hopped off and ran to the barn to get his truck and an air compressor to pump up the tire. His tractor was running but he had cut off the corn picker. While the air compressor was doing its work, he went back to the corn picker and began cleaning out corn shucks that hadn’t discharged like they were supposed to. He had it halfway cleaned out when he noticed a corn stalk that was stuck in the bottom of the rollers. “I was trying to pull it out but it wouldn’t come out. I went around to check on the tire and when I saw it was halfway pumped up I figured I’d walk back around and pull the PTO lever which engaged the corn picker. I turned it on, thinking the rollers would take that corn stalk on up and unclog it, but it didn’t. I stuck my hand in there without thinking and grabbed hold of that corn stalk. I pulled down and it wouldn’t come out. When I pushed up, the rollers that take the shucks off the corn took the corn stalk along with my hand up inside those rollers. It happened so quick. It was just a split second and my hand was being ripped apart.”
In excruciating pain, with blood pouring down his arm, for the next 1 ½ hours, Sampson did everything he could to get his hand out of the corn picker. He used his free hand to dig dirt and rocks from the ground and threw them over the top into the corn picker hoping to jam the machine. He took off his boots and his belts and threw them in. Nothing worked. He feared he was going to bleed to death if he couldn’t free himself soon. The thought of bleeding to death and his family finding him in the back of the corn picker somehow gave him strength to keep fighting. He was in agony and desperate. “That’s when I turned to God and cried out to God to help me. ‘Please help me!” I remember crying. ‘I don’t want to die here!’ And that’s when things began to change.”
Here is a link to Sampson's Book for his full story!
In Part 2, Sampson Parker is faced with an unthinkable choice when the corn picker catches fire while his arm is stuck inside.
(This series about Sampson Parker’s fight for survival is part of a broader series on Farm Safety. It includes the stories of two other farmers, Corey Lutz, of Lincoln County, and Lewis Phipps, of Alleghany County.)