‘I’m lucky,’ says farmer who cut off his own trapped leg with a pocket knife


A Nebraska farmer who cut off his own leg with a pocket knife to free himself from a grain auger says his injury is “just a scratch compared to what some people have gone through.”


“I’ve got friends around here that are in wheelchairs and things like that [who] will never walk again. I know I will,” Kurt Kaser of Pender, Neb., told As It Happens guest host Gillian Findlay. 

“I mean, look at the people in the army and stuff like that.”

Kaser, 63, was unloading corn last month when he accidentally stepped on the opening of a hopper, a bin use to haul grain. His leg quickly became caught in an auger, a tube with a rotating shaft that deposits the grain in the bin.

“It just sucked me in there,” he said. “I looked at it and I go, ‘This is not good.'”

Almost immediately, he said, his foot was cut off at the ankle. He could see the bones protruding from his leg as his severed foot was “bouncing around” inside the machine.

All the while, he was getting sucked in deeper and deeper.

There was nobody around to hear him cry out for help. He felt in his pocket for his phone, but he didn’t have it.

Corn fills a bin at the base of an auger on a farm in Buda, Ill. Kaser was unloading corn last month when he accidentally stepped on the opening of the grain hopper and his leg was sucked inside the auger. (Daniel Acker/Reuters)

Time was running short. He knew that if he passed out, he would die.

“So that’s when I reached down and got my pocket knife out and I started cutting it,” he said. “There was clothing and skin. I mean, it was happening so fast and it was, you know, it was bloody.”

Once free, Kaser says he used his elbows to drag himself in an army crawl nearly some 60 metres to an office with a landline telephone.

But instead of dialling 911, he called his son — a first responder who works in the area. He was on the scene in no time, he said. 

“He comes flying out and he’s got radios in his pickup and everything,” Kaser said. 

“When he come, I was laying on the floor there in that office. Before he’s seen it at all, I said, ‘I really screwed up.’ And he walked over to me … and he looked and he said, ‘You really screwed up, Dad.'”

Kaser expects to walk again with the aid of a prosthetic leg. (Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals)

Kaser was rushed to hospital, where he spent several weeks recovering. He is now home and doing well, all things considered. 

Because the cut is below the knee, he says he can be easily fitted with a prosthetic leg when he fully heals. 

“Kurt’s overall attitude during recovery was one of pure resilience,” Dani Willey, Kaser’s occupational therapist at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals in Lincoln, Neb., said in an emailed statement.

“He wasn’t about to let the accident slow him down.”

As soon as he can, Kaser says he plans to get back to work on the farm.

“I’m lucky,” he said. “My whole knee works perfect.”

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Kurt Kaser produced by Sarah Jackson.