How am I still alive?

Matt Pitts on the job as a bricklayer.

‘‘How I am not dead is beyond me.’’

That is what Echuca’s Matt Pitts told the tfBannersc Pastoral Timestf$f from his hospital bed at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, after a large tree branch fell on him in Deniliquin last week.

Mr Pitts was left with four fractured ribs, fractures to his spine and his right leg, a punctured lung and severe bruising.

But he said he’s still surprised the branch — which he said was similar in size to a telephone pole — did not kill him.

Mr Pitts had popped over to Deniliquin on Monday last week to round out the New Year’s long weekend with long-time friends.

They were staying at the McLean Beach Holiday Park, where they have holidayed from Melbourne for the last 15 years.

They were catching up around a table adjacent their caravan, under a shelter, when the branch fell.

‘‘It is a bit blurry still, but we were just sitting around the table chewing the fat,’’ Mr Pitts said.

‘‘I couldn’t see anything, but I heard this almighty crack.

‘‘The lady sitting opposite me said by the time I stood up, the tree just slammed down on top of me.

‘‘I remember thinking I was dead, and I must have gone out (lost consciousness) for a few seconds. When I came back I just remember everyone screaming.

‘‘There were so many people around just trying to get me out.’’

Witnesses said the tree fell with such force it snapped the rolled steel joists of the shelter in half, causing both the roof and the tree to collapse on top of their friend.

He was pushed so hard he fell through the glass outdoor table they had been seated around, with the frame of the table pinned under his body.

Mr Pitts said he cannot recall how long he was actually trapped under the shelter roof and the branch before VRA Rescue, Deniliquin Police and NSW Ambulance Paramedics could free him.

And while it may seem cliched, he said it really did seem like ‘‘forever’’.

Mr Pitts was not the only person under the shelter when the massive red gum branch came down, and he’s not sure why he’s the only person to be severely injured.

A woman in the group was thrown by the branch and has significant bruising, and everyone else — including children — escaped with little to no injuries.

Mr Pitts said while doctors do not believe he will have permanent physical damage as a result of the incident, he’s not sure he’ll ever be the same again.

‘‘It’s going to be a timing process. I have my leg in a brace for at least six weeks, but otherwise the fractures will have to heal naturally.

‘‘But I am a bricklayer; there’s no more physical job on the back and the legs.

‘‘It could probably be the only thing that saved me — I am a big guy and have a pretty strong back.

‘‘But I will never be able to go back (to the caravan park) or sit under a tree again.

‘‘I keep hearing that cracking noise — every minute of the day.

‘‘How did it only hurt me and miss everyone else?

‘‘How quickly life can change.’’

Mr Pitts was initially treated at Deniliquin Hospital before being transferred to the Royal Melbourne by air last Monday night.

‘‘The Deni Hospital was fantastic with me, the way they flew me here (to Melbourne) was fantastic and the team here have been really good to me too,’’ he said.

When speaking to the tfBannersc Pastoral Timestf$f on Friday, Mr Pitts said he expected to be allowed to go home to Echuca ‘‘sooner rather than later’’.

‘‘If I can get back to Echuca and to the couch, I’ll be okay from there,’’ he said.

Mr Pitts said while what happened to him was a ‘‘freak accident’’, he said the ordeal served as a timely reminder about large trees in windy conditions.

‘‘It was nobody’s fault, but I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else,’’ he said.