A man known to many in Hanceville for a lifetime of friendship and community involvement died late Saturday morning in a backhoe accident near Highway 91.
Jimmy Hamrick, 68, was killed when the backhoe that he was operating turned over into Mud Creek a little less than a mile from Hanceville.
“The man was operating the machinery near the edge of the creek when it turned over into the water and pinned him underneath,” said Cullman County Coroner Gary Murphree. The death was ruled a drowning.
Murphree estimated the time of the accident to have been around 10:30 a.m., though the accident was not witnessed and the exact time is unknown.
Hanceville mayor Kenneth Nail said the accident scene was spotted by a man driving down Highway 91, who left his vehicle and attempted to assist Hamrick.
“He jumped over and tried to get him out from under the backhoe, but Mr. Hamrick was just pinned under it,” said Nail. “He backed off, and called 911. I believe even if someone had been there with a piece of equipment and had seen the accident happen, it would have been hard to save him. It’s just a really sad day for folks down here.”
Hanceville police chief Mark Bowers said police took a report on the accident and documented the scene.
“In terms of an investigation, we did take a report on the accident and some pictures at the creek,” said Bowers. “The call came in to us just minutes before 11 a.m. Here we are at the waxing of Farm City Week, where we are already wanting to encourage safety in the operation of heavy equipment, and we have a real tragedy for the Hanceville community today that Mr. Hamrick died in this way.”
Hamrick had worked under contract with Cullman County to maintain the creek’s riparian corridor, a task crucial for averting floods in the City of Hanceville.
“It’s very vital, what Jimmy was doing,” said Nail. “That creek has to be cleaned up continually. What people don’t realize is that if Mud Creek is not cleaned up and maintained, that water can back up into the City of Hanceville. The creek has to flow in order for Hanceville not to flood.”
Nail described Hamrick as an open-hearted person willing to give of his time and labor just to see his community improve.
“Last year, I called and said, ‘Hey, Jimmy, I want you to bring your big bush hog down past the south of Hanceville and do some cutting — I’ll pay you, and we need a little help.’ And he brought his big bush hog down and bush hogged all the way to Garden City for us. Then, when he was done, I said, ‘Hey, come on. Jimmy — it’s time to settle up; I need to pay you.’ He said, ‘Ah, you don’t owe me nothing. I don’t want anything from you; I’m just out working.’ That’s just the kind of guy he was. I’ve known Jimmy since I was a little kid, and he was just a fine fellow. It’s terrible here today.”
* Reporter Sam Rolley contributed to this report.
* Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.