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Mud Wrasslin' in Indiana

0 ae9a5By Jim "Buck" Sorrenti

Graham's Wrecker Service in Franklin, Indiana, has been serving the Johnson County area since 1929. Scott Graham represents the fourth generation in the family business. On Feb. 1, 2019, Graham's was called to recover a piece of heavy equipment from a muddy construction sight.

"We were contacted ... by Franklin Equipment about possibly recovering one of their large Skyjack lifts that was buried in the mud on a construction site, approximately 250-feet down and behind the new Nashville/Brown County Event Center in Nashville, Indiana," Scott said.

The temperature included a wind chill down to -19 degrees F, so the company wanted to hold off a few days to attempt the recovery. The downside to that was the temperature rose above freezing and it rained. This made the entire site a mud pit, from 6" to 12" deep.

The initial request was for a large wrecker to simply winch out the Skyjack. Not a word was said about the transmission being faulty with no pulling power to break the suction caused by the mud. They had spun it down on the frame, creating holes with all four tires. It was buried 3' deep and there it had sat for four-plus days.

The Skyjack model SJ1256 TH telehandler is a heavy unit for heavier-duty applications. This was a very large telehandler with a length of 23'-1" to the fork face, a width of 8'-5" and a height of 8'-6" with the boom down. It weighed in at 34,500 lbs. and being stuck in the mud made it that much heavier.

"We were apprised of the state of the access drive and where we would have to sit on a mud pad," said Scott. "The decision was made to leave the rotator at home, due to its size and weight. It would have basically fell through and been stuck before even getting to the winch pad. ... We elected to start with 'Heavy,' our '92 Freightliner with a 50-ton, three-winch Hubbard wrecker and side-puller."

Operator Steve Williams went down, got set up and gave it a shot. It became quickly apparent that he had enough winch power, just not enough anchorability due to the wet ground and dead pull. He could get no lift on a 250' pull. He then discovered that the unit had no power.

At this point, Steve called and asked Scott to bring "Pete" down. "Pete" is a 1977 Peterbilt 359 with a 40-ton two-winch Hubbard. Both of Graham's Hubbard heavies are Zacklift equipped trucks. The Pete has a Zacklift Z30 and the Freightliner has a Zacklift Z402.

Steve and the construction crew then called Franklin Equipment for how-to guidance, and pulled the planetary gears/pins, allowing the unit to free wheel. Scott arrived about 45 minutes later.

"We pulled 250-feet of cable through the sticky mud to the stuck Skyjack telehandler," Scott said. "With the two Hubbard heavies, and the help of a small dozer pushing, the Skyjack literally popped straight up out of the holes and we proceeded to winch and 'cable steer' it around a ditch and up the hill to flat ground."

Amazingly, "Heavy" walked right out of the mud, but "Peter" was stuck.

"'Pete' was the sacrificial lamb so to speak," Scott said. "We were in a foot of mud and gravel. I had one shot to spin in, so I had to bury poor old 'Pete' into position for winching, and there he stayed. Steve took great delight in winching me out. He was smiling the whole time he was pulling me out. ...

"With two trucks and a little dozer nudging it, the recovery itself took about one hour once we had both trucks on scene. We got the unit out without damage, returned to Franklin, and spent two hours washing trucks, cables, chains and boots."

Show Yours @ TIW
Do you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor Jim "Buck" Sorrenti at ; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!
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