A 29-year-old man was freed from a stainless steel auger by having his leg surgically removed during a rooftop rescue Friday morning, Spokane Fire officials said.
The man was transported to Sacred Heart Medical Center via MedStar helicopter shortly after 8 a.m. Friday. Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said Friday afternoon the patient was in stable condition, and Intensive Care Unit doctors said he “was doing exceptionally well.”
“Our last resort in that situation is to surgically remove the leg,” Schaeffer said. The height of the rescue, occurring about six stories above ground level, caused the situation to develop rapidly and required rescuers to call in surgeons who performed the procedure under sedation in a makeshift “surgical suite,” Schaeffer said.
The man was conscious and in serious condition, said Spokane Fire Department’s deputy chief, Dave Leavenworth.
Rescue crews were called to the Purina Mill, 4714 E. Trent Ave. at 6:48 a.m. today and had to climb multiple stories to reach the patient who was stuck above a grain mill on an external catwalk, Leavenworth said. A gondola attached to a crane ultimately was used to lift rescue personnel to the site and to lower the patient to the ground.
A Medstar helicopter was waiting and police picked up and delivered to the scene orthopedic and vascular surgeons to assist.
Rescue crews were not able to dismantle the stainless steel auger, Leavenworth said. They tried to cut it away from the man, but could not. It’s not clear how crews were able to free him from the auger. Grain dust swirling around the equipment made the rescue process more complicated, he said.
The man’s injuries are mostly to his right leg, which was caught in the auger below the knee. It’s not clear whether the man’s arm was also trapped, as was earlier reported.
The short video below shows the patient being lowered to the ground by crane.
Although the federal agency responsible for investigating workplace accidents is among those furloughed during the partial government shutdown, Washington investigations are conducted by state workers who are still on the job.
The state Division of Occupational Safety and Health enforces workplace safety rules across Washington state under agreement with OSHA, which pays the state about $19,000 a day for handling those duties.
A spokeswoman for the state program said its investigators remain on the job and that Washington is hoping to recover the federal payments when the partial federal shutdown is resolved.