FRANKLIN CO. (WSIL) -- Crews rescued a man from a hole in the woods near a rural Franklin County cemetery earlier this week.
Late Wednesday night, a caretaker of Hammond Cemetery called the sheriff's department after noticing a vehicle on the property.
Franklin County Sheriff David Bartoni says Deputy Ray Minor was sent to check it out.
"He ran the plate. It came back to a couple out of Benton, and he had dispatch make contact with the female register owner, and she advised that her husband had left in the car that morning around 10 o'clock, and she hadn't seen or heard from him since."
While there, Deputy Minor heard a noise coming from well beyond the parking lot.
"Thought what he heard was a yell coming from the woods. He called for additional units to come out there. He started walking in the woods, and he found an 81-year-old man who had fallen in a hole," explained Bartoni.
"And was then able to go down through the woods, and get down this ravine himself, to where he found this gentleman helpless, stuck in this mud, and only his face visible," said Benton Fire Chief Shane Cockrum.
That's when Minor called for help.
"Abbott EMS, Sesser and Benton fire departments responded to the scene. They were able to get the gentleman out of the hole and transported to the hospital," said Bartoni.
Cockrum says the Sesser and Benton Fire departments frequently train for rescues like this, but he commends Deputy Minor for his effort that night.
"Officer Minor from the Franklin County Sheriff's Department was instrumental in saving this gentleman's life. His persistence in his patrols, noticing this vehicle, and also at ten o'clock at night, walking a cemetery looking for the occupant of a stranded vehicle."
Sheriff Bartoni says he wants to commend both the cemetery caretaker and Deputy Minor for their diligence.
The 81-year-old man, who says he was out for a hike, told rescue crews that he had been in the hole for nearly eight hours.
According to Bartoni, the man said he was not injured but was taken to the hospital to be evaluated.