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Ex-LSU player's leg amputated after dog shoots him: 'His pants were just soaked in blood'

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 1/9/2019 Brian Broom

a group of people in uniform sitting in front of a building: Matt Branch (from left), David Lamonte, Micah Heckford and David Joe Branch were on a duck hunt along with Connor Branch (not pictured) near Eagle Lake when Matt Branch was shot by a dog and almost lost his life. © Provided by USA Today Sports Media Group LLC Matt Branch (from left), David Lamonte, Micah Heckford and David Joe Branch were on a duck hunt along with Connor Branch (not pictured) near Eagle Lake when Matt Branch was shot by a dog and almost lost his life. A former Louisiana State University offensive lineman had his leg amputated and is in intensive care at University of Mississippi Medical Center after being shot by a dog while duck hunting near Eagle Lake in Mississippi.

Micah Heckford said he and a group of friends were on an annual duck and deer hunting trip in Mississippi on Dec. 28. The outing took place on land farmed by family members of Heckford's best friend, Matt Branch, who played football for LSU from 2008-2011.

"They farm all the land around Eagle Lake," Heckford said. "Every year we go over there.

"For the most part there's five to eight of us that have been going six or seven years now. We deer hunt in the evenings and duck hunt in the mornings."

That morning began no differently than any other.

"It was a normal morning," Heckford said. "We got up, made coffee and talked about our game plan.

"Everybody was pumped up. We rode the levee the day before and there were a ton of ducks. We were excited."

The game plan called for Heckford, Branch, Branch's cousin, David Joe Branch, Branch's younger brother, Connor Branch, and friend, David Lamonte, to spread out and hunt along a slough. Later in the morning, they planned to regroup and hunt together.

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That's when a pleasant morning turned into a crisis.

"At approximately 9:40 a.m., David Joe, David, Matt and I were all standing around the bed of the (Polaris) Ranger and Matt had laid his gun down flat in the bed of the Ranger and walked around on the passenger side to finish loading up," Heckford said. "I was at the tailgate no more than 4 feet away from him."

Seeing that the hunters were loading the vehicle, another hunting companion, a Labrador retriever named Tito, jumped in the bed of the Ranger. As he walked around finding a place to sit, he stepped on the safety of Branch's shotgun and pulled the trigger.

"The gun shot," Heckford said. "Everybody looked up. The first thing I saw was Matt and within two to three seconds he realized he was hit."

Branch began screaming and fell to the ground. The gun had shot through the bed of the vehicle and struck his left thigh.

"In the midst of the chaos at this point, I ran over to Matt to assess what had happened," Heckford said. "We had no clue what the damage was at this point in time.

"I immediately yelled to David Joe to call 911. As quick as possible, we picked up Matt and loaded him into the Ranger. I jumped in the bed and David Joe took off driving."

Branch was taken to a road that first responders could access. Heckford applied pressure to the wound to slow the bleeding. When firefighters arrived they cut off Branch's waders and pants. 

"I think that's when it hit me how serious it was," Heckford said. "It was at that point in time I realized how much he had bled. His pants were just soaked in blood."

Branch was taken to a medical facility in Vicksburg and later transported to UMMC. Heckford said Branch's left leg was amputated and has undergone several surgeries. Heckford said family members have reported Branch's cognitive abilities appear to be fine and he is expected to recover.

Heckford's best friend is expected to live to hunt another day, but the catastrophic injury and how it happened has him thinking about gun safety.

"All of us have hunted for 20 years or more and none of us thought about that happening," Heckford said. "We were just moving 200 yards to set up and hunt.

"The opportunities for an accident are there and we just don't realize it. We think we're being safe, but are we? If there's a shell in that gun, anything can happen."

A GoFundme account has been set up in Branch's name to help with expenses.

Follow Brian Broom on Twitter @BrianBroom

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Ex-LSU player's leg amputated after dog shoots him: 'His pants were just soaked in blood'

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