Bedford Co., VA - A Bedford County man paralyzed after falling from a tree stand is urging hunters to use safety harnesses in the woods.
Saturday is the kickoff of early muzzleloader season. Hunters will head out into the woods and up in tree stands, looking for the big buck. After two recent tree stand accidents in Bedford County, Barry Arrington says their focus needs to be on safety.
"It only takes a second," said Arrington.
Arrington knows that first hand. He's been a quadriplegic since falling from a tree stand 19 years ago.
"Got up on it. Stood on the platform. Did not re-attach my safety belt and just gave a little tap on the end of the stand to make sure it's secure," said Arrington. "It gave way and I landed on my head. Instantly I knew something was wrong because my whole body was tingling."
That one moment was followed by the better part of a year in the hospital, and a lifetime in a wheelchair.
"That just moment, or lapse in judgment," said Arrington.
Neighbor Vernie Kennedy ran out to help the Arrington family when he heard the rescue squad being called that night 19 years ago. Kennedy, a hunter education instructor, wants to help hunters do it the right way.
"About a third of all accidents occur while you're climbing up in the tree stand. A third of them while you're in the tree stand. And then a third of them getting down," said Kennedy.
Kennedy says you should look for tree stands that are TMA (Tree Stand Manufacturers Association) approved. He does not recommend homemade tree stands and says to never modify a tree stand.
Arrington will never let a moment pass that becomes a missed opportunity to share his story.
"God he's in a wheelchair. Wow. Instantly they start paying attention," said Arrington. "If just one more person gets a safety belt and uses it, it was worth it."