He was not going out easy on a hovercraft because he considered himself ornery.
Once, he was out with Heater and Split for a routing recon flight checking for weaknesses in the machine defences. Heater proposed to check one of the fetus fields. Split and Mac tried to talk him out of it, but Heater reckoned to use the dumping ground on the perimeter as cover.
Using the junk as cover, the craft clipped something and ruptured the starboard input tank. Heater and Split were dead but Mac, with a broken arm and leg, three cracked ribs and a head trauma, dragged himself away and found a cover just in time not to be seen by sentinels. As the sentinels dug the scrap, he lost consciousness, but a crazy old man found him from a tunnel. He saw the "silvery bites" from the "sting of dragons" and brought him to his hideout.
As Mac woke, he saw the empty shell of a sentinel, caught by the old man, just to check that he was of the same "brotherhood" from his reaction. As the days passed, the old man kept Mac alive and he ate cockroach paste and mice. When his fever subsided, Mac found his ship's radio that the old man salvaged and tried to repair it with the tools available. He realized that the old man was living in his own fantasy world of knights and "dragons" and no to cognition of the Matrix.
One day, Mac woke up and the old man was left, with a package for him. He looked in the periscope and saw the old man inside the sentinel head attracting other machines sentinels and then exploding in the fields. Mac then had some snooping around. Presumably with the use of his repaired radio, he contacted Zion, while still considered M.I.A.
After completing a month of absence, he was brought back. His friend Leet volunteered to nurse him until he recovered.