A veteran oil field worker was seriously injured in an accident on Thursday afternoon at a site one mile north of the Powderwash camp. The worker was struck by nine steel pipes that broke loose from the back of a truck. Each pipe weighed between 400 and 500 pounds.
Ray Francis, 45, of Rock Springs, Wyo., was unloading a shipment of 60 45-foot, 4 1/2-inch diameter pipes being delivered by John Bunning Transfer Co., Inc., when the accident occurred. Francis is employed by Wire Brothers, also of Rock Springs. The Wire Brothers company was doing subcontracted work on land operated by Questar Gas Management.
According to the investigating officer, Deputy Gary Nichols of the Moffat County Sheriff's Department, Francis and coworkers had unloaded 50 of the 60 pipes, and were in the process of moving to the next drop location for the last 10 pipes when the load shifted and swept Francis off the 48-foot flatbed trailer the pipes were transported on.
"They were in the process of moving to a new location to drop the last 10. Francis was scotch blocking (tying down) the pipes to secure them when the load shifted, taking the victim with them. He was basically swept off the truck bed," Nichols said. "Francis was struck by nine of these 45-foot pipes, sustaining injuries to his head, shoulders and torso.
"According to witnesses, as he was being swept off the truck, Francis grabbed the bumper rail with his left hand, which caused the pipes to strike him and then roll off him. That probably saved his life. Had he completely fallen off, the pipes would have landed on him instead of hitting him and rolling off. Had he not grabbed that bumper, there would have been a different result."
Francis was flown to the University of Utah Trauma Center, where he is being treated for head injuries, broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken wrist, pelvis and ankle. At the time he was being flown out, Francis was stabilized, and was conscious and breathing. He is presently in a drug-induced coma as precaution because of a blood clot on his brain that was a result of his head injuries.
According to Nichols' investigation, which is still ongoing, the main cause of the accident is that Francis was on top of the load while he attempted secure it.
"The only thing we can think of as a cause at this point in the case is that he was on top of the load, trying to block the load before moving. Normally, workers don't get on top of the pipes on the trailer," Nichols said. "His boss said Ray was an experienced oil field hand."
The Little Snake River ambulance crew responded to the call that was received by Colorado State Patrol Dispatch at 1 p.m. on Thursday. Nichols responded to the call, and arrived on the scene at 2 p.m. Flight for Life was already on the scene, meeting the Little Snake River ambulance at a prearranged landing site at the Hiawatha Camp, Canyon Creek. These sites are arranged by the various emergency services to handle these types of situations. A doctor was on board the ambulance and made the decision that Francis needed to be sent to the University of Utah Trauma Center because of his injuries, Nichols said.