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'I was a lucky camper. It was a very close call.'

Robert Congdon's been public works director in Preston for 18 years, so he thought nothing of clearing a few branches off the road.

When Congdon, who is also Preston's first selectman, got a call about limbs blocking River Road on Thursday, he drove down to take a look. He tossed a chain saw in his SUV, drove to the street at about 8 p.m., and found about seven branches no bigger than 2 inches in diameter on the roadway.

He decided to cut them up himself.

"I was all done, and I heard this loud crack, like a big tree breaking," Congdon said. "And I don't remember anything else."

The next thing he knew, paramedics were putting him on a backboard.

Congdon was taken to The William W. Backus Hospital, then flown by helicopter to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he was in the intensive care unit from Thursday night until he was released Saturday, he said.

He said he suffered several broken ribs and bleeding behind the sternum, which doctors worried could affect his heart.

"I guess I was hit by a fairly large tree," he said.

Selectman and state Rep. Timothy Bowles said he called Congdon about the tree down on River Road and suggested sending out a crew. Bowles said his neighbor later heard the chain saw running, then heard it stop.

The neighbor went outside and found Congdon lying in the street.

"I evidently was unconscious for some period of time," Congdon said.

When he woke, he said he recognized the faces of the resident trooper and paramedics from the Preston City and Poquetanuck volunteer fire departments.

"I was a lucky camper," Congdon said, adding that doctors told him "it was a very close call."

He said he'll have to do things differently next time.

"My son took my chain saw away," he said.


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