News

Combine crushes man’s leg

A 46-year-old Whatcom County man is at Harborview Medical Center in serious condition after a farming accident near Oak Harbor Thursday.

Farm worker Randy Crape suffered extensive damage to both legs after he became entangled in the farm equipment he was operating at Muzzall Farms, just south of Oak Harbor.

His legs “were really broken bad,” Island County Sheriff’s Deputy Layne Campbell said.

Crape, who was working for a subcontractor at the farm, was injecting a grass field with fertilizer when the hose pumping the manure became plugged.

He phoned his boss, Butch Heutink, who was working at another field to inform him of the problem.

“I said ‘Hang loose, I’ll be right there,’” Heutink said, still covered in manure after his efforts to aid Crape. “He did something he was not supposed to.”

Crape, who had been working for Heutink for only two weeks, jumped out of the tractor to try to fix the problem. What happened next is unclear, but Crape’s legs became wrapped among the tines of the combine, but not pierced. They twisted as he rolled with the machine, resulting in extensive breaks and internal damage.

“When I first came up, I didn’t even see him,” Heutink said. “I jumped into the cab and he was gone — I looked out the window, then I seen him.”

Approximately two dozen firefighters and paramedics rushed to the manure-soaked field to pry Crape loose from the machine.

The crews worked swiftly, cutting away a portion of the combine’s shaft before untangling Crape’s legs. His legs were wrapped in MAST pants, which are meant to keep the patient from going into shock.

A team of eight firemen waded through the muck, carrying Crape to a waiting ambulance, just as a medical helicopter landed in the field.

“We used the jaws of life in combination with airbags to free him,” said Gerald Smith, captain with North Whidbey Fire and Rescue.

As medics worked to stabilize Crape, an ambulance loaded with a surgeon, anesthesiologist and a nurse rushed in from Whidbey General Hospital arrived to assess him. Crews loaded him into the waiting helicopter, which lifted him to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. As of press time, he was listed in serious condition and no further information on his condition was available.

“It was a very unfortunate incident,” the farm’s owner, Ron Muzzall, said. “This is my greatest horror, that something like this would happen.”

Muzzall said that his farm has a nearly perfect safety record. The Department of Labor and Industries is investigating the incident.

“We’re hoping and praying for him,” Muzzall said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com

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