Meeker Sand and Gravel employee suffers burns

MEEKER I A man suffered severe burns Nov. 4 when a hydraulic conveyor he was operating came into contact with a high-voltage power line.
But the accident had the potential for a far-worse outcome.
“It could have been fatal,” said Dick Welle, general manager of White River Electric Association.
The man — John Hill, 44, of Craig — works for Meeker Sand and Gravel and was operating a cement truck at a job site on County Road 4. The truck’s hydraulic conveyor struck a 7,200-volt power distribution line. The accident occurred shortly after 4 p.m.
Hill was taken to Pioneers Medical Center for initial treatment and then transferred to St. Mary’s Hospital at Grand Junction, where he remains a patient in the hospital’s burn center.
“He got severe electrical burns,” Welle said. “We continue to monitor his progress.”
According to Mike Joos, Rio Blanco County undersheriff, Hill received entrance burns on both hands and exit burns on both feet.
As far as the man’s injuries, Welle added, “Electrical burns are unique. They have a tendency to burn from the inside out.”
Welle was the first WREA responder on the scene.
“Our protocol is, No. 1, to make the scene safe, that (emergency responders) don’t also become a victim because of the downed power line,” Welle said. “We assume (the power line) is energized until we make it safe.”
Welle said Hill was standing on a cattle guard alongside the truck operating some controls when the accident occurred.
“He was attempting to stow (the hydraulic conveyor) when he raised it up into the line,” Welle said. “The truck took part of the energy … fortunately, he didn’t get the full voltage available, which may have helped save his life.”
There were other people on the job site at the time of the accident.
“They said it knocked him backward on to his back,” Welle said. “He got up and started running. They eventually got him to sit down. He was conscious when I got there. There was the potential for additional victims, but they did a lot of things right at the scene prior to us getting there.”
Units from the sheriff’s office and Meeker Fire and Rescue responded to the scene, in addition to WREA.
“The contact with the power line caused the line to snap and the live end of the line started a small grass fire,” Undersheriff Joos said.
Welle said the accident was a reminder of the importance of practicing safety around power lines.
“Our continual pleading is for safety and awareness,” Welle said. “We’re continually trying to educate first responders, contract people. This guy had had a lot of previous training, but he just didn’t see (the power line). It was one of those accidents that shouldn’t have happened.”
n For information about WREA’s safety awareness training, contact Joe Foster at 878-5041.