AN elderly farmer escaped with his life after the tractor he was driving ran out of control down a steep field and flipped on to its side.

Lionel Bond, 78, was thrown from the cab after he blacked out shortly before the vehicle ran out of control down the hillside.

His wife, Joyce, who was watching from the kitchen window, called the emergency services unaware her husband had made a dramatic escape as the tractor went over a bank and crashed to the bottom of a field some 50 metres below.

Pieces of the tractor were broken off in the impact but amazingly Lionel suffered no more than a cut to his head and a broken bone in his neck after being hurled clear.

He was taken by air ambulance to Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, where this week he was recovering, and already making plans for the Dartmouth Fatstock Show in December, which he has always attended for the past 60 years.

Meanwhile, his son, Phil, has thanked the emergency services who were quickly at the scene for their care and professionalism in handling the situation.

Lionel was working on the family farm at Browns Norton, between Dartmouth and Blackawton, about 3.30pm on Fri­day when the accident happened.

Phil said: ‘Dad was driving the tractor back along the lane when he stopped because he didn’t feel too well and must have fainted or blacked out before he could immobolise it .

‘The tractor lurched forward over a bank falling about 15 feet into a field below with him in it.

‘In the impact he was thrown out of the cab, possibly through the roof, before the tractor rolled another 50-60 metres to the bottom of the field.

‘He could so easily have been crushed and killed. How he got out of it alive I do not know. He has to be the luckiest man in Devon.’

Phil said his mother was just putting the kettle on in the kitchen when she looked out of the window to see the tractor at the bottom of the hill.

Phil’s brother in law, Neil Coaker, who was also working on the farm heard a noise and came to Lionel’s aid, clearing his air ways before the ambulance crews arrived.

Lionel has farmed in the area for over 55 years and last year had the honour of receiving a gold watch from the Dartmouth Fatstock Show, of which he has been chairman for the past 25 years.

Phil added: ‘For the past 15 years the fatstock show has regularly given funds to the air ambulance. Little did we think we would be needing their help.’