A 23 year old Washington man is lucky to be alive after suffering a near death experience where he fell into an industrial wood chipper and was spit out the other side.
Frank Arce was on his shift when the bark peeling machine known as a “porcupine” became jammed up with a log. The machine was shut down for him to dislodge the log and when he reached in to grab the wood the machine restarted, sucking him in. He was beaten and pummeled by the tines and metal spikes within the machine as it forced him through, then dropped him 6′ down to a conveyor belt.
The experience left him hospitalized with 7 broken ribs, a broken toe, and a broken ankle and pelvis. On top of that he suffered an open fracture to his knee, cuts and abrasions, and a collapsed lung. He’s had several surgeries so far but doctors say his outlook is good and he’ll survive.
He’s currently at Pace Health Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington.
In an interview Arce said that he was “praying for the best and preparing for the worst,” “In a situation like that it’s all you can do,” he added. He said going through the machine itself wasn’t the worst part of the ordeal, but “not knowing what was going to happen” was what scared him the most. He actually remained conscious throughout the entire incident.
He says he was satisfied that all of the necessary safety procedures had been followed prior to his reaching in to the machine, however health and safety officials later found that it was in fact still switched on.
If it weren’t for his co-workers he wouldn’t have survived. They shut down the machine quickly rushed to him and put compresses on his wounds, helping him to keep his heart rate down and limiting the amount of blood that he lost.
The machine consists of 6-7 inch long curved tines that rotate on a shaft, they spin rapidly and beat the bark off the tree.
Arce believes he had an angel on his shoulder that day, saying “I felt I had a lot of angels out there with me that day, a lot of people looking out for me.”
Arce is expected to remain hospitalized for up to 3 weeks and may suffer permanent nerve damage, doctors said.