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Man pinned by asphalt roller in Monroeville expected to make full recovery

| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For Trib Total Media
Emergency crews responded late Friday morning to a man trapped under an asphalt roller that had rolled over a hillside on Saunders Station Road. The operator was taken by helicopter to a Pittsburgh hospital this afternoon.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tim
An accident occured in the vicinity of Saunders Station and Abers Creek Roads in Monroeville earlier this afternoon. A piece of heavy road equipment went out of control, skidding down the hill and into the creekbed. The operator was removed from the wreckage and was apparently conscious when taken to the hospital. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express

The worker trapped under an asphalt roller two months ago in Monroeville is headed toward a full recovery, and some are calling him a hero.

The man, who requested his name not be disclosed, suffered from leg and rib fractures as a resut of the Aug. 30 incident on Saunders Station Road, said Dr. Christoph Kaufmann, director of trauma services at Forbes Regional Hospital. He was released from the hospital the last week of September and walked out of the hospital with the aid of a walker, Kaufmann said.

“All the stars lined up for this guy,” he said. “He was a really lucky guy.”

The man — a Meadville employee of New York-based Suit-Kote Corp., which was hired by the municipality — was behind the wheel of an asphalt roller when a hydraulic hose snapped. The machine lurched forward downhill out of control.

Denise Nolen of North Irwin was driving on Saunders Station Road when the accident occurred. She rounded the bend near Abers Creek Road and saw the 18-ton construction vehicle headed toward her.

“I was getting hit with plastic bottles and some asphalt or stones,” Nolen said.

As the machine rolled closer, she caught a glimpse of the man's face.

“I could just see the terror … his arms were like the Incredible Hulk,” Nolen said. “I could see all his muscles bulging as he tried to steer it.”

Thinking of her 4-year-old grandson, who was riding in the back seat of her car, she turned the car in hopes of minimizing the impact.

But there was no impact.

The worker managed to steer the machine into the creek alongside the road. However, in avoiding an accident that could have injured Nolen and her grandson, he wrestled the machine into uneven terrain that caused it to fall on top of him. He was trapped face down in mud and water.

Within seconds, a Monroeville inspector who happened to be on site called in the accident, and medical teams were dispatched from Forbes Regional Hospital and Monroeville Fire Company No. 4.

For paramedics to treat the man, two civilians were asked to go above and beyond their usual call of duty.

Towtruck driver Matt Magill, 23, of Magill Automotive in Pitcairn, said the adrenaline started flowing when he heard the incident on the scanner. When he arrived at the creek, Magill said, the worker's life was on the line.

“This was the first time for something like that,” Magill said. “We've dealt with similar situations, but usually it's already fatal.”

Following the direction of first responders, Magill and a second driver used their trucks to help lift the machine while simultaneously stabilizing it to prevent it from tipping.

“We lifted it four times, moving at about five inches at a time,” Magill said.

Emergency responders then were able to dig the man out of the mud, and paramedics rushed him to Forbes Regional Hospital. Everything went right on that day, Kaufmann said.

The mud provided a cushion and reduced the pressure on his legs, and though he was pinned face down in mud and water, he was able to turn his head to breath, Kaufmann said.

Had the incident occurred one year ago, he would have been flown to a trauma center in Pittsburgh rather than being treated at the newly-accredited trauma center at Forbes.

Kaufmann said such a delay in treatment might have cost the construction worker his legs.

Last month Monroeville Mayor Greg Erosenko awarded four employees of Magill Automotive with certificates of valor for their assistance on what Erosenko called a “very frightful day in August.”

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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