Man trapped in mud for hours in Westborough while searching for falcon rescued by fire department

Man trapped in mud for hours in Westborough while searching for falcon rescued by fire department

WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — A man in his 70s was stuck in the mud in Westborough for more than two hours on Thursday after looking for a missing bird in a nearby swamp. But it wasn’t just any bird, it was a falcon that he was using to hunt.

That man, named William Johnston Jr., spoke to Boston 25 News from the hospital on Thursday night.

"The gentleman was fortunate that he had his cell phone, he was by himself," said Deputy Chief Jason Ferschke of the Westborough Fire Department.

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The man is a master falconer and was hunting for ducks when he lost track of his falcon and went looking for it.

The location of the rescue made it very difficult for firefighters. Despite their training, it’s very rare that they are wearing a cold-weather survival suit and operating a chain saw at the same time.

"That type of environment isn't easy to get through on a normal day but putting yourself in a suit really hampers any movement," Ferschke said.

When they reached him in the area off of Flanders Road, Johnston was cold but uninjured.

"He had perched himself up on a stump and had been able to keep himself out of the wet stuff,” said Barry Sullivan of Westborough Fire. “He was cold and tired."

They then had to bring him back out.

"It was an inch of ice, you couldn't stand on it,” said Chris DuBois of Westborough Fire. “You had to push your way through the under bush […] and once we found him, we had to make sure we kept him above water."

They carried him part of the way back then used an ATV to bring him to a waiting ambulance.

“I pulled myself out of the water and the mud and I started to shake and started to suffer hypothermia,” Johnston said. “And I had 1% left on my phone so I used that to call 911, and they were just fantastic and I just can't say enough good things about the Westborough rescue team [and] EMTs.

“They really worked hard to get me out of there, they bushwhacked in with a chain saw and the guys were wearing the suits that they do for water rescue. It was cold, I was shivering and they were sweating just getting me out of there, which they did, and they just transported me to UMass."

Johnston is expected to return home from the hospital Thursday night. His falcon is still out somewhere, but he says he has a GPS tracker and will be able to find her on Friday.

“If I didn’t have my cellphone my wife would be planning,” Johnston said. “I couldn’t have gotten out by myself, I’ll tell you that.”