FREMONT (CBS SF) — He’s a little embarrassed by all the attention, but 90-year-old Farmer Ernie says once he tumbled into an old well on his property, the only thought that raced through his mind was “just trying to survive.”
Farmer Ernie is old school, he didn’t want his real name used or show his face on TV. He says he uses water from the well to irrigate his small crop of vegetables.
“I just grow vegetables for myself and to give away,” he told KPIX 5. “That’s what I use that little well for.”
The well in on the ranch his family bought in the 1930s and it’s opening is just 4 1/2 feet wide and has walls reinforced with bricks.
“They dug it by hand, would you believe it?” he said of the well.
On Saturday, he went into the pump house to retrieve some water.
“So I went in there to turn the pump on, there’s a switch in there and the floor let go,” he said. “No warning. Just poof, gone.”
He fell 26 feet into cold water at the bottom of the well.
“I’m in the water and there’s a lot of debris that came down with it,” he said. “Planks and stuff. I’m just trying to survive you know.”
He began treading water.
“I put my feet against that wall and my back against this wall and put pressure so I wouldn’t sink,” he said as he pointed down the well.
Less than an hour later, his daughter became concerned and went looking for him. She heard his cries and called 911.
“It’s not a typical call for the Fremont Fire Department, being an urban fire department,” a fire department spokesman said. “We don’t respond to wells of this nature very often.”
Firefighters had to take the pump house apart and after two hours at the bottom of the well, Farmer Ernie was finally pulled out.
“Very frightful,” he said of the experience. “I’m still shaky about it.”
Farmer Ernie said he was feeling okay on Sunday — he’s a bit tired, his back hurts and he has an 8-stitch cut in his head. But he says he’ll soon be back in his garden.