Not a good way to start the day before one’s 32nd birthday.
Blaney had been working alongside several co-workers in Yarmouth on Friday morning, feeding cut-down trees into a large wood chipper. “We were into our normal routine,” he told Stening. “Just going, going, going.”
At one point, a pine tree with shaved-down branches and another pine tree, one that still had its branches, began to jam the chipper.
Blaney, who positioned on the ground to the side of the machine, says he took a step forward to push the two trees further into the grinder — and before he knew it, became entangled by a branch. “I could feel the branch tightening around my knee caps,” he said.
Realizing he was just seconds from serious harm, he jumped off the ground onto a small platform at the mouth of the chipper to avoid “going in head-first.” But he couldn’t free his leg and could feel it being pulled into the chipper.
“Once my foot went in, I knew what was going to happen,” he told the reporter.
Luckily, co-workers Kevin McCarty, 30, of Concord, and Nicholas Callahan, 29, of Dennis Port sprang into action. They immediately put the machine in reverse, then called for help. Callahan took off his belt and used it as a tourniquet around Blaney’s leg, elevated it and kept applying pressure until emergency first responders arrived, according to a statement from the Yarmouth Police Department.
At 9:51 a.m., firefighters and police were called to the site where Blaney and his crew were working, according to Yarmouth fire Capt. Thomas Lundquist.
Seconds after his rescue from the chipper, Blaney started going into shock. Despite feeling surprised — and having a sense of focus about what had just happened to him — he said he felt “total calm.”
“I just thought I was going to die,” he said. “I accepted that I was going to die. They brought me into the ambulance and were asking me questions. They were surprised that I was coherent,” Blaney told Stening.
At Cape Cod Hospital, he underwent emergency surgery to stop the profuse bleeding and close the wounds on his leg and abdomen. The accident took most of his left leg.
Blaney insists that he followed safety protocols during the moments leading up to the accident, saying “it was just a freak accident.”
He credits his quick-thinking and first-aid-savvy co-workers with saving his life. A GoFundMe page has been started for him, and he’ll soon start a rehabilitation program.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration was notified, and detectives from the Yarmouth police department are investigating the incident, according to Yarmouth Deputy Police Chief Steven Xiarhos.
Blaney struggles thinking about what will no doubt be a long road to recovery. “Anytime I look at my leg and think about my future I just break down,” Blaney told the reporter. Still, he hopes to find a silver lining in this dark episode.
“When I do, hopefully this birthday will be remembered as a start to something great.”