Utah letter carrier saves man who was severely injured when a grinder tool malfunctioned

(Photo courtesy the National Association of Letter Carriers) In this photo, Price letter carrier Trent Hanna poses for a portrait. Hanna saved Jeff Hill's life on Oct. 19 while he was out delivering mail.

When a grinder tool that Jeff Hill had used probably a thousand times turned on him and slashed his hand near his wrist and thumb, cutting two arteries and a tendon in the process, he didn’t have many options.

He was alone at his Price home, and his injury prevented him from calling for help. Hill feared that if he eased his other hand’s death grip on the hemorrhaging wound, he would bleed to death.

That left him with one recourse: Go to the front yard and try to flag someone down. So, he turned off the grinder, walked out of the shop and headed toward the road.

“And lo’ and behold: There’s the postman right there in front,” Hill said.

The letter carrier, Trent Hanna, called 911, and Hill was saved.

If Hanna wasn’t in front of the house on Oct. 19, it’s likely Hill would have died since it was about noon on a Thursday and most other people in the neighborhood were at work. It’s unlikely someone else would have driven through.

That’s the thing about letter carriers: They’re in neighborhoods when others aren’t. They see what goes on and notice when things are amiss. It’s so common the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) recognizes carriers every year for similar feats, like saving a baby from a wrecked car, or rescuing someone from a burning building.

“In our innerworkings of letter carriers, we all know that it’s not abnormal for a carrier to go out and do something like this,” said Mark Montoya, Hanna’s NALC branch president. “... We service the community, and we’re vigilant about our customers and are always looking out for them as best we can.”

That’s how Hanna sees the situation. He was there, so he helped as best he could.

“I wouldn’t call myself [a hero]. He calls me that, Mr. Hill calls me that, but I was the right guy at the right time at the right place for him,” Hanna said.

Fate seemed to have intervened quite a bit that day.

For instance, when Hanna heard Hill calling for help, he was just about to leave that street for another. If the accident had happened a few minutes later, it’s likely Hanna wouldn’t have been there.

And if Hill had moved any differently when the grinder bound up, the saw might have cut a different tendon, and he — a self-employed mechanic — might be out of work for months instead of weeks.

But neither happened, and as it is, Hill is recovering.

His doctor told him he needs to wait three weeks before he moves his injured thumb, and he’s suffering from an extreme, chronic case of hiccups since doctors removed a breathing tube after his surgery.

Aside from that, he’s doing OK.

In the hours and days since the incident, Hanna said he was shocked by how much seeing trauma like that impacted him. He mulls what would have happened if he hadn’t been in the front yard, or if Hill had passed out at the sight of all that blood instead of trying to find help.

“It’s just,” Hanna started, and then groaned, trying to find the words, “it’s mind-blowing, just the stress of it — and [there was] a lot of blood.”

Since then, Hanna said, he’s recovered from that initial shock, and now he’s back to his normal route. Almost like he did the day it happened, when he took a few minutes to collect himself and got back to delivering mail.

He worked this Saturday. It was a beautiful day, he said. Gorgeous.

And he saw Hill as he made his rounds.

“He was telling me thanks again. Thanks for being cool under pressure and helping him,” Hanna said. “There’s definitely a bond there.”