VANCOUVER, Wash. — It was 10 seconds of hell for Frank Arce, who should’ve died after he went through a wood chipper.
“Actually going through the machine itself wasn’t the worst part about it,” he said Wednesday from his hospital bed at PeaceHealth SW Washington Medical Center. “What was the worst part (was) the not knowing what was going to happen.”
Arce was conscious the entire time.
Arce works at a company that shreds up bark into wood chips.
When something got stuck inside the machine, he went in thinking everything was turned off – just like they practice – to get the object. But somebody didn’t get the message, and Arce was inside the barrel – about the diameter of a basketball – that has spikes and claws when he heard the engine start up.
He was smiling and cracking jokes Wednesday, but Arce has a broken pelvis, shattered ankle, bruised liver, broken leg and a cut that runs the length of his body on the back side that’s so deep it crushed his knee.
He’s on a lot of pain medication right now.
“There was a thought (that I was going to die) but it was more like something was telling me I wasn’t going to die that day,” he said. “I felt I had a lot of angels out there with me that day – a lot of people looking out for me.”
Arce has another two and a half weeks or so in the hospital, but he said he received the right care quickly because of the training and help from his co-workers at the Swanson Bark and Wood Products Co. in Longview.
That company’s president was not in the office Wednesday to talk about the accident, but the human resources representative said they are paying 100 percent of Arce’s medical bills.
The state Bureau of Labor and Industries is investigating, and KATU has calls in to both the state and federal agencies who keep an eye on workplace problems. So far, KATU has not found any at this company.