Recovering Redwood Falls, Minnesota man recounts surviving 4 days stuck under tree

In September, a Redwood Falls man was trapped under a tree for more than four days. Saturday, for the first time, the man who survived those incredible odds is telling his story.

Jonathan Ceplecha has been through something most of us would have never survived.

"It was just kind of a standard day," he recalled. "I went down to cut down one of the trees -- I was just trying to enhance the view from my porch."

Ceplecha had nearly finished up his tree clearing project when everything changed.

"It was like a split second thing," he says. "I saw this huge trunk coming right at me."

The tree pinned him down below the waist and would keep him trapped there behind his home for more than four days. So Ceplecha prayed and began to calm down and focus on survival.

"I told myself, 'you know, Jon, your chances are very slim here but if it doesn’t start bleeding again, there's no reason to think that you can’t really live until they find you.," he said. "I knew the odds were slim, but you have a bonafide chance here."

Ceplecha lives alone and didn’t have his phone with him. He calculated how long it might be before he was discovered.

"I realized if people start missing me on Sunday, that the earliest anyone will find me on Monday," he said. "That’s a five-day stretch, so that’s what I was planning for."

The Army veteran drew on his survival skills and knew he would need to collect water to live. So, Ceplecha drank drops from plants and his clothing.

"This coat had the ability to create like little pockets in it, so I made a little system in it that if it did rain I could catch a lot of water," he said.

But he needed that mental toughness too, turning to his faith and his family.

"One of the spiritual things that I think very much allowed me to survive is that," he said, "I didn’t want my children to grow up without a father."

It would be the concern from his family that would lead him to be found. He had missed a planned phone call with his daughter over the weekend so his ex-wife went to check on him Monday afternoon.

"A lot of my defenses and focus just kind of dropped because I knew tons of help was a matter of minutes away," he said.

It would take several hours for rescue crews to get him out. Ceplecha was flown to the Hennepin County Medical Center. His right leg had to be amputated below the knee and there’s been multiple surgeries on his left. But he says he's focused on his blessings.

"At its basis, it’s really a love story," he said. "It's really an example of the power of a father’s love for their children."

A GoFundMe has been created to help Ceplecha through recovery. You can click here to donate.