Neighbors watched for nearly two hours as rescue workers from Naperville and other towns struggled to free a utility worker who was pinned by a boom truck that toppled beneath high-tension wires Monday afternoon in Bolingbrook.
Two workers, who were connecting power cables to utility towers, crashed to the ground in a basket that had been hoisted more than 50 feet in the air. They suffered minor injuries.
But the worker who operated the hoist from behind the cab of the flatbed truck was trapped by a metal cage that surrounded the controls.
Rescue teams were forced to stabilize the toppled flatbed with cranes and a tow truck before they could begin cutting away metal to free the worker’s crushed legs, Bolingbrook Fire Chief Chuck Peterson said.
Paramedics administered pain killers to the 52-year-old man through an intravenous tube while rescuers raced the clock to remove him. A consulting doctor warned they had four hours to free the worker’s legs before they could be forced to amputate, Peterson said.
The victim was pulled from the wreckage at 1:52 p.m., roughly one hour and 45 minutes after the truck tipped.
Rescuers proceeded cautiously to prevent the truck from shifting and further injuring the worker.
“This was a very, very unique rescue in that you have to worry about doing further damage with the truck,” Peterson said. “Any pressure four or five inches one way or the other, the truck would have shifted.”
The worker was flown to Loyola Medical Center in Maywood where he was listed in serious condition late Monday afternoon.
Authorities would not release the workers’ names. They were employed by M&J Electric of Iron Mountain, Mich. ComEd hired the company to connect power cables to utility towers between Lombard and Lockport, said ComEd spokesman Jack Jarrett.
Monday’s accident occurred in an easement behind St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church and the Indian Oaks subdivision. Officials declined to speculate on the cause.
“The crane tipped over; we don’t know how it happened,” Peterson said.
Jarrett said, however, that it appeared one of the truck’s supporting legs sank in muddy ground. He could not say whether Monday’s high winds played a role in the accident.
“I’m not in the crane business or the construction business,” Jarrett said. “But I’m sure they worked in these type of circumstances before. They are the experts.”
Indian Oaks resident Kevin Lynch heard the truck fall.
“We heard the boom sound, like thunder,” he said.
Lynch and other neighbors dialed 911 and then rushed outside to help the trapped man, whose legs were pinned at the knees.
“He was screaming his head off; he was saying things you couldn’t print,” Lynch said.
Camille Brunt, who lives on Yellow Pine Drive, also dialed 911 when she heard the noise. She ran to a rear window and saw the trapped worker screaming for help. When rescuers arrived, the worker pleaded with them not to let the truck shift.
The two men in the elevated basket were transported to Edward Hospital in Naperville. One was listed in good condition, the other as serious. Rescue workers said one of the men suffered a broken left ankle. The other walked away from the accident with minor cuts and bruises.
The wires the workers were connecting were not carrying electricity. But Jarrett noted that adjacent wires to the west were live. Fortunately, the truck tipped to the east, he said. None of the homes or businesses in the area lost power during the ordeal.