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Worker Loses Leg in Spokane Industrial Accident

A 29-year-old man was freed from a stainless steel auger following an industrial accident by having his leg surgically removed during a rooftop rescue Friday morning, Spokane Fire officials said.

The man was transported to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center via MedStar helicopter shortly after 8 a.m. Friday. Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said the patient was in stable condition Friday afternoon 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 with the patient under sedation in a makeshift surgical suite, Schaeffer said.

The man was conscious and in serious condition when airlifted from the scene of the accident, Spokane Fire Department deputy chief Dave Leavenworth said.

Rescue crews were called to the Purina Mill, 4714 E. Trent Ave., at 6:48 a.m. Friday and had to climb multiple stories to reach the man, 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.

Police picked up orthopedic and vascular surgeons to assist and took them to the Purina Mill.

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. 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.

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 the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which pays the state about $19,000 a day for handling those duties.

A spokeswoman for the state program said Washington is hoping to recover the federal payments when the partial federal shutdown is resolved.
 



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