Rural Retreat father recovers after near fatal hunting accident

Rural Retreat father recovers after near fatal hunting accident (Image 1)
Rural Retreat father recovers after near fatal hunting accident (Image 1)

RURAL RETREAT (WSLS10) – “I’m just hanging in there,” father of two Eric Watson says as he sits on a bed in the living room of his Rural Retreat home. “That’s what I been saying hanging around with people,” he says with a laugh.

“Hanging around” has new meaning for Watson. 

He says he’s hunted in the same spot for years. He’s climbed the same spot to hunt since his father first took him when he 12-years-old, but when he went to lock in his tree stand the morning of Nov. 1, things didn’t go the same as usual.

“I went to lock the top in. Whenever I went like that, just like that I was upside down,” Watson remembered. 

He was stuck, hanging, his feet still strapped and flat to his tree stand. Watson admits he’s never used a harness.

“I figured this ain’t no big deal.” He said of his predicament. “I was thinking, ‘at least I’m still hanging here at least I didn’t hit the ground.'”

Watson didn’t notice he was 35 feet from the rocky ground below and tried a number of MacGyver like moves to get himself out.

Watson said, “I was trying to stand up and reach the tree but after 10 times of that, I was like this is bad.”

He says he screamed for hours. He’d call and text but couldn’t get cell phone service from the woods. He shot at the cable to get the tree stand loose. That didn’t work, but his uncle, nearly a mile away, heard the single gunshot and thought he heard a faint call for help.

Help in the form of family and friends from his old neighborhood, was now finally on the way.

“I seen Kayla come down there. I’m like, ‘I ain’t giving up now.’ They gave me some more strength,” Watson said.

Daughters Kayla, 16, and Madison, 10, who now help him with his physical therapy, gave him reason to hang on until he was finally brought down nearly six hours after his trip started.

“They started letting me down,” Watson said of the rescue team who arrived after Kayla called 911.

“That’s when I said ‘lieutenant Dan coming down,’ and they got me on a stretcher. My legs felt like they were going to blow up.”

As it turns out, doctors told Watson that his muscle and tissue broke down, sending toxins into his bloodstream which started to shut his body down, leaving him unable to walk.

Now he’s home, after a number of surgeries, and has months of rehabilitation ahead before he can learn to walk again.

Watson observed, “God was with me, he brought me out of there.”

He says he’ll hunt again, but stay on the ground from now on. He says he’ll be forever amazed by the number of people helping him as he heals.

“I never knew I had so many people that cared about me,” Watson said.

Friends started a GoFundMe account to help him with expenses. There are also two benefits planned.

The first is a musical benefit Dec. 6 at Rural Retreat Penrecostal Holiness Church at 5:00 p.m., where he is a member. The second is a silent auction Dec. 13 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Moose Lodge.

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