A Vale man is happy to be alive after falling 40 feet down an old well Thursday near the Lincoln County line in western Catawba County.
First responders rescued Billy Townsend, 44, of Vale, on Thursday after he stepped on what he thought was a sturdy metal well cover and plummeted 25 feet into icy cold waters. He then descended another 15 feet.
“I don’t know if that well has a bottom, but I didn’t want to find out,” Townsend said, adding that the frigid well water was the worst part of the entire ordeal. “The whole time I was thinking, ‘Lord, just help me get out of this hole.’”
Townsend said he was working on a well pump at his uncle Jim Speagle’s home on N.C. 10 near the Lincoln County line when he fell through a piece of metal covering the well. After he hit the water, Townsend said his uncle lowered a “drop cord within a minute or so.”
Townsend said he was able to prop his feet up on the dirt walls of the well before rescue crews arrived. Hickory Rescue responder Tony Lutz was lowered into the well to help get Townsend out.
“My goal was to make sure he was OK and get him up safely,” Lutz said, adding that it’s been a long time since he’d responded to a well fall. “Sometimes people say they are OK, but are just shaking an injury off because their adrenaline is so high.”
Numerous rescue vehicles and emergency personnel surrounded the rural well, which was located on the back porch of Speagle’s home located between Smith and Heavner Roads off N.C. 10 West. After working for nearly 45 minutes, Lutz and other rescue responders were able to pull Townsend from the old clay well to safety.
“It took a whole team effort here today,” Lutz said.
Despite the long fall, Townsend only suffered a few cuts and scratches to his arms and legs. His teeth were still chattering from the frigid waters as he walked around the scene after being rescued. A cigarette bounced around on his lips as he embraced family members and thanked the rescue crews that saved him.
Townsend said that even after the frightening ordeal, he is still going back to work, “Lord willing.”
“I think I’m finally getting warm, and it sure does feel good to be in the sun,” Townsend said. “I’m just glad I’m here and all right.”