REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. — A western Minnesota man was rescued by emergency personnel Monday, Aug. 31, after being trapped under a tree for more than 100 hours, according to the Redwood County Sheriff’s Office.
On Thursday, Aug. 27, Jonathan Ceplecha, 59, was cutting down trees behind his house about two miles east of Redwood Falls on U.S. Highway 71 when a large oak tree fell, pinning Ceplecha underneath.
According to Redwood County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mark Farasyn, Ceplecha lives by himself and the Sheriff’s Office wasn’t notified anything was amiss until he didn’t show up for two days at Marshall Area Technical & Educational Center, where he works as a teacher.
"Not many people could have survived that,” Farasyn said. “Jonathan’s an Iraqi war veteran so that probably had something to do with this in order to survive.”
Miles Ceplecha said on Thursday evening that he and his sister have been with their father in the hospital. According to Miles, Jonathan is "fully cognizant and alert, and although his legs are badly broken, amputation has basically been ruled out at this point."
Farasyn said rain over the weekend also helped to ensure Ceplecha came out alive.
“It was just amazing how alert and conscious he was,” Farasyn said. “It was probably something I’ve never seen in my 30 years and probably will never see again.”
According to a narrative posted on a GoFundMe launched by Miles Ceplacha, "Jonathan ate plants and insects within arm's reach, drank sweat and rainwater that he collected in his clothes, and covered his head in his shirt during the nights to keep the insects off as he slept."
Members of the Redwood Falls Fire Department worked for almost two hours to free Jonathan Ceplecha.
“Anytime you’re messing with cutting trees and stuff like that, obviously one wrong move, they can bind this way or that way,” Farasyn said, adding they had to be mindful when cutting the giant oak on Ceplecha. “As bad as we wanted to go in there and go hell bent and get this thing off, things like that, you got to study and kind of be meticulous about how you go about them.”
The GoFundMe narrative tells that Ceplecha was on a hill in the woods behind his house, just far enough to be out of sight and sound, and that he did not have a phone on him.
His ex-wife found him Monday evening. His family had grown concerned he wasn't answering calls, and law enforcement had responded at the request of the school.
Law enforcement said Ceplecha suffered substantial lower leg injuries. Centra Care Ambulance responded and Ceplecha was airlifted from the scene by LifeLink Air Care.
According to his son, he is being treated at Hennepin County Medical Center's intensive care unit in Minneapolis.
He has already undergone surgeries and faces a long road to recovery, the fundraising page states.
As a veteran, Ceplecha is covered by Veterans Affairs, but the fundraiser will cover any unforeseen gaps and expenses that arise.
The fundraising page is https://www.gofundme.com/f/jonathan-ceplecha-survivor.