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Colorado logger amputates own toes to free himself after accident

September 1, 2011 |  2:39 pm

Jon_Hutt

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

A logger who was trapped by logging equipment -- alone and without cellphone reception -- in the remote Colorado wilderness says he did what he had to do to survive: He used a pocket knife to cut off  his toes, setting himself free.

John Hutt, 61, of Montrose, Colo., has attained celebrity status since the Aug. 19 incident, relaying again and again the harrowing decision he had to make to save his life -- and spurring countless "What would you do in that same situation" conversations. Here's what happened, according to accounts from ABC News and the Associated Press:

Hutt had driven his logging truck into the wilderness in western Colorado to haul off some trees for firewood when a piece of logging equipment fell off the truck, pinning his foot. "Whenever I tried to move it, the pain would get worse," Hutt was quoted as saying.

He quickly assessed the situation -- he was by himself, far from help, with no way to call for help. He said he realized he had little choice. He retrieved his three-inch pocketknife and began removing his own toes, one by one. 


There were moments when he couldn't bear the pain, he said.

"I wanted to do it before I went into shock or dropped the knife or something like that," he said in those interviews. "I'd cut some and then it'd be pretty painful, so I'd stop and take a breath or two and then keep cutting until I finally got it cut off."

Once he was free, he used a T-shirt to cut off the bleeding and headed out of the wilderness. He drove to a nearby parking lot, and when he had cell reception, he called for help. An ambulance took him to Montrose Memorial Hospital, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported.

His severed toes were so badly mangled they could not be reattached.

Hutt had this advice for anyone who finds themselves in a tight spot: "I think it's real important to keep your head and not just panic and start screaming," he said in the ABC News story. "That isn't going to do you any good. You need to start figuring the way to get out of the situation like that. And do whatever it takes to do it."

Hutt's efforts to save his own life echoed that of climber Aron Ralston. In 2003, the young man amputed his own arm after he was trapped inside a remote Utah canyon by a falling bolder. His tale of survival inspired the Oscar nominated film "127 Hours," starring James Franco. He also wrote an autobiography, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place."

Hutt is now recovering, and even joking about the incident. In the ABC story, he passed along this one: "My insurance agent asked me why I called an ambulance. He said I should have called a tow truck."

For the record, 2:45 p.m., Sept. 2: An earlier version of this story said that Hutt cut off five of his toes. The number of toes could not be confirmed.

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--Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

Photo: Hutt holds his Old Timer pocket knife while sitting on the front porch of his home, where he is recovering. Credit: William Woody / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

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