Man Miraculously Survives After Being Trapped Under Tree Log for Four Days

Combined Shape

There’s tough, and then there’s Jonathan Ceplecha tough.

Ceplecha, 59, has been through more than most in the past month and a half. It all started on Thursday, Aug. 27, when he decided to start taking down some trees on a steep slope on his property, just 150 yards from his home.

Living in the Minnesota River Valley, Ceplecha is an English teacher, an Army veteran and a man of faith. All three of those traits helped him survive the harrowing ordeal that ensued.

As he was felling trees, one oak in particular “bounced in a weird way” when it came down, his daughter, Emma Ceplecha, told the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune.

The log came to rest on Ceplecha himself, pinning him and breaking one of his legs while crushing one of his feet.

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“It seemed to drag him and his legs underneath it,” Emma explained to the Star Tribune. “It was a one-in-a-million kind of accident, he told us.”

Seeing as how he lives alone, there was no one to realize he didn’t come home, and no one could hear his cries for help. And so he stayed there, in pain and at the mercy of the elements, for four days.

In order to keep from panicking or going mad, he kept his mind occupied. He prayed, meditated, invented rhythms and imagined conversations with his children.

“He kept his sanity by breaking down every day into hours, and each hour into 5-minute segments,” a GoFundMe started for him reads. “As someone of a heavy faith, he prayed to himself often, and tried to distract himself from panic by meditating and inventing rhythms to follow from dawn to dusk.”

He knew a bit about his surroundings and was able to eat bugs and plants within arm’s reach.

“He collected water in his hat and created a reservoir with his clothes,” his daughter said. “He had a sweater he could wring out and drink that way.”

He had a weekly tradition with Emma, where the two would read the same book and discuss it on Sundays. When he didn’t make the call, she assumed he was having phone troubles.

“I knew he never would miss that call and at the very least he would have texted me to tell me he was busy,” she said. “I should have listened to my gut.”

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When he didn’t show up to work at the school on Monday, they called the sheriff for a welfare check. It wasn’t until that evening, though, after Ceplecha’s concerned ex-wife started looking for him, that he was found.

“He is a true survivor in every sense of the word,” his GoFundMe reads. “He is also an Army veteran, a teacher, and a proud father. Thank you for your support.”

He’d already beaten the odds making it through those four days of misery, but he’s faced an amputation, multiple complications and infections since being found.

“I would like to say thanks to each and every one of you for your prayers, your well wishes, for contributing to this account, and for all the other things that have been done for me,” he conveyed through the GoFundMe page in an update from Oct. 1.

“Friday afternoon I will be having my seventh operation. The goal is to fix some of the tissue in my left leg that is not growing as it should. After that operation, I have been told that I will probably need three more surgeries before my left leg is fully stabilized.

“Now that my right leg has been amputated and it is healing, it is ready to be fitted with a prosthetic. However, that has been put on hold until the left leg is fully recovered.”

As of Tuesday, he was reportedly seeing improved healing after getting a feeding tube and more protein. The GoFundMe has raised nearly $6,000 so far, and hopefully with that and the prayers of family, friends and acquaintances, he will be able to make a full recovery and live a long time to tell his tale.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking