Trapped in a chaser bin

Farm worker Jason Holmes found himself in a very tight situation when he ended up trapped in the bottom of a chaser bin on a farm in Cascades, about 100 kilometres northwest of Esperance, when the machinery he was operating faulted.

The final complication was that no one knew he was there. So it was a long 90 minutes before another worker discovered him trapped at the bottom of the bin.

When the alarm was raised, two St John Esperance ambulance crews (consisting of Rachel Doney, Julie Bridson, Sue Willoughby and Paul Gaughan) were dispatched. St John Community Paramedic Paul Gaughan said it was a daunting scene they faced upon arrival.

“The walls of the chaser bin were nearly four metres high so access was gained by a ladder,” he said.

“Once inside the bin it was difficult to maintain a stable position to work because both sides of the floor slope inwards to the middle at a steep angle. Because the patient was lying along the middle where both sides of the floor sloped and met, with his arm severely trapped up the auger, the position for emergency workers was precarious as any knocking of the patient or falling onto him from the sides would increase his pain.”

Members from the Esperance Volunteer Fire and Rescue soon arrived and set to work trying to set the injured patient free.

“Several attempts were cautiously attempted without success, including a manual backwards rotation of the blade,” Paul explained.

“Part of the problem was that the arm was hidden inside the auger and it could not be seen how it had been trapped by the blade. It was decided to angle grind through the metal and create a lid on the top of the tube and open it up so the hand could then be freed.”

Eventually Jason was freed and placed on a scoop and then moved onto a fire truck before being transferred to the ambulance.

During this time the St John State Operations Centre which manages triple zero (000) emergency ambulance calls, had tasked the RAC chopper to attend and it was decided that the best course of action was to transfer the patient directly to Esperance airport where the chopper could refuel and take him to Royal Perth Hospital.

After an hour’s transport by St John Ambulance to rendezvous with the chopper, Jason was transferred to the care of St John Critical Care Paramedic Clinton Van Der Westhuyzen. His arm had been crushed for three and a half hours and was 50 per cent amputated at the top of his wrist.

Recently Jason, with his arm on the mend, visited the St John Esperance Sub Centre to thank his rescuers. Although he still has a long way to go with his rehab, he can move all of his fingers and has nothing but praise for all those involved in his remarkable rescue.

Paul said this rescue was one that stands out for its challenges and collaboration.

“This was a rescue which involved a lot of problem solving in difficult circumstances in a very isolated and remote part of the southern Goldfields, where both DFES and St John worked together as a team to bring about the best possible outcome to a traumatic crush injury.”

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