A Caltrans worker underwent emergency surgery Thursday after his arm was severed while clearing brush on State Route 76 in Fallbrook (about 20 miles north of Escondido).
• A man clearing brush for a Caltrans highway widening project was hit by a steel cable that severed his arm at the shoulder.
• The arm was catapulted into the air. It took search-and-rescue workers a little over an hour to find it.
• Surgeons were working to reattach the man’s arm. He was said to be in stable condition, but results of the surgery have not yet been announced.
The victim, later identified as Jason Giessow, was working for a subcontractor, Dendra Inc., on the State Route 76 widening project, Caltrans spokesman Hayden Manning said. The crew was clearing thick brush near the San Luis Rey River along the highway, about two miles west of Interstate 15 near Gird Road.
San Diego County sheriff’s spokesperson Jan Caldwell said the crew was using a fixed steel cable under some heavy brush. The cable got caught in some vegetation-removal machinery and snapped, striking Giessow’s arm and literally slicing through it.
“This machine has rotors that go about 10,000 rpm. It got under that cable and he happened to be standing too close and the cable came snapping through and just severed his arm at the shoulder. Very fast, within a millisecond,” Caldwell told NBC News.
The severed arm was catapulted into the air and landed out of sight.
Emergency crews responded right away and rushed Giessow to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido for emergency treatment. A search-and-rescue team was immediately dispatched to find his arm, as there is only a three-hour window for reattachment surgery, Caldwell said.
Sheriff’s deputies, two canines and about 25 volunteers located the arm by 3 p.m., according to an NBC News report. Brian Tindall, with San Diego County Search and Rescue, found it.
“I thought was a log. I kind of poked at it with the machete and it was soft, so I moved some of the brush away and that was the arm,” Tindall said. “I just yelled out ‘I found it! … Found the arm!’”
The arm was in very good condition and was mostly intact, Tindall said. The rescue crew packed the arm in ice and saline, and a sheriff’s crew flew it to the hospital via helicopter, Caldwell said.
Giessow was immediately sent into emergency surgery, where doctors were working to reattach his arm. The outcome of the surgery had not been announced as of Thursday afternoon, but Manning said Geissow was listed in stable condition.
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