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VIDEO: How Salem's Dan Stacey saved his father's life

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Sunday, October, 09 By David Willis
Staff writer

SALEM — Dan Stacey believes it was all instincts.

"It was an automatic reaction," said Stacey. "It went through my head and I just did what I had to do so quickly that afterwards I had to think about what just happened."

As his father was being pulled into a wood chipper, the Salem High defensive lineman, thanks to his quick reaction, strength and knowledge of first aid, was able to both pull him to safety and tend to his wounds.

"There are no heroes in this country anymore," said an emotional Kevin Stacey. "But my son is a true hero. This young man is absolutely incredible. I don't know where he got it."

It was the first day of summer vacation 2010, and the Staceys were working a job for their business, "Staceys Uphill Farm," which specializes in tree removal.

"I had just cut down a tree and was chipping it," said Dan. "My dad was raking up. I was about 10 or 15 feet away from him and I had just picked up a big pile of brush."

Kevin believes his mind may have blocked out the details of what happened next.

"I went to throw some small branches in," Kevin said. "I'm not sure what happened, but then I was getting sucked into the chipper. I tried to yell to Dan, but I couldn't."

His son, however, saw something was wrong.

"I looked over and all of a sudden I saw him jerk and his legs go up in the air so I dropped the brush and ran over," said Dan. "There was a moment of fear, but with my knowledge of what to do, thanks to the lessons my dad taught me, I knew what had to be done."

Dan was able to hit the safety bar to stop the chipper and pull his father out of the machine. Then, thanks to his experience as a Boy Scout, he was able to tend to his hand, which was bleeding profusely.

"I called 911 then gave him a compression bandage," he said. "When the ambulance arrived, they didn't even have to unwrap it. They just took him to the hospital. ... Every year (in Boy Scouts) we have competitions, and first aid is a station. I learned over time."

Kevin suffered a gash, which required 14 stitches, and pancreatitis (damage to his pancreas) from being slammed into the machine. But he was alive.

An amazing son

"I love my father very much," said Dan. "There are a lot of people a lot older than me that probably could not have handled that stress in the same situation. My father knows that."

Kevin struggled to compose himself while describing the pride he has in his son.

"He's truly amazing," said Kevin. "He never has a bad word about anyone, and stands up for people that need it. Since he was 13 he has carried more than any kid should have to carry. He's a great man."

That near-fatal accident far from scared Dan off from the family business.

When he turned 18, Dan officially took over Staceys Uphill Farm — formally known as Stacey's Tree Service — and now handles the day-to-day operations.

"I decided when I was about 12 or 13 this is what I wanted to do," he said. "I do a lot of the physical labor. I cut down the trees and load them up. I use a bucket truck, which goes 60 feet into the air, a dump truck and log truck with a hook that picks up the logs.

"I also do the paper work, which is much worse. I have to keep receipts, balance check books. It's hours of paperwork. I think some people look at me and don't see me as a person in this business. But when I can name the species, the diseases it causes and what's going on with the tree, people see I know what I'm doing."

Challenging schedule

Kevin still worries at times his son may take on too much.

"I am absolutely concerned he's overwhelmed," he said. "Last winter, when everyone else (in his class) was in bed sleeping, Dan was out plowing the roads so they could go to school. He does what has to be done."

His father isn't the only one stunned by Dan dedication.

"He is a special breed," said Salem football coach Jack Gati. "During the summer he would work, go to football practice, go back to work, practice again then go back to finish his work. He work ethic is unbelievable. You don't see kids like him very often. He makes his own path."

Eagle Scout, too

In his rare free time, Dan is also a dedicated Eagle Scout. This spring he unveiled a large Veterans Memorial project at Pine Grove Cemetery in Salem which took just over two years to complete.

The impressive project has drawn rave reviews. It includes a brick walkway, six memorials, six flag poles around the memorials and a center pole with the American flag. The walkway is in the shape of a ribbon.

"I wanted to do something that would last for a very long time," he said. "I planned and created it myself, and with the support of friends and the residents of Salem, the project got huge. I wanted something big, and I fell in love with the idea."

He hopes to attend the University of New Hampshire and study business, with the intention of growing his company. He has already taken classes in forestry at archrival Pinkerton Academy.

Through it all, the 5-foot-8, 190-pounder has found time to be a two-year anchor on the Blue Devils' defensive line.

"Football is my release when I have a tough day," he said. "It gives me something to focus my anger and frustration on. I play football during the week, and my weekends are dedicated just to working."


To see video of his story, along with pictures and video, visit eagletribune.com/sports or rallynorth.net.

Facing the danger

Having saved his father from a near-fatal accident with a wood chipper, Dan Stacey knows the danger of his family business, Staceys Uphill Farm.

Just 18, Dan now runs the business.

"There is always that risk of something coming down on me," he said. "When I'm (60 feet) up in the bucket truck I have a harness. I haven't been climbing much because it's very dangerous because it's just straps."

But he has no plans of moving to safer work.

"I want to grow the business," he said. "I want to grow it where I am working out of a crane. Then you don't have to turn down any jobs."

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