Sometimes when we go to a board of inquiry, we don’t find anything wrong. And this is the case tonight. This man is just happy to be alive, and he thanks his coworkers for keeping him calm and the firefighters for getting him out.
Joel Canela, 27, stayed behind after his shift as a supervisor at US Pipe and Foundry in Union City last Thursday, when he lost his footing over a silo that feeds a concrete mixer.
“I went up there just to check out from the top of the silo,” Joel Canela told Dan Noyes. “I lost my footing and fell inside.”
It fell into the dry mixture, being put into circulation by the vibrators of the system.
Joël Canela: “It was like quicksand or water,
Dan Noyes: “You are fighting.”
Joël Canela: “I’m just trying to stay in the know.”
A colleague stopped the machine trapping Canela waist-deep in dry cement and called 911.
Dan Noyes: “Were you really afraid for your life?”
Joël Canela: “At first I was, the first two minutes, the first five minutes I say.”
But there was another scary moment. Alameda Fire arrived, put a harness around Canela, and started releasing the cement from below. But it pressed Canela even more. They had to stop.
“It worked a bit because it squeezed out a lot of cement around my waist,” Canela said.
Eventually, after more than two hours, crews freed Canela, carefully led him up the stairs, and used a fire hose to wash off the cement. His voice is hoarse after inhaling cement dust, a dentist gave him a clean today to remove the sand from his teeth, and he wears bandages over his burns.
“I have a chemical burn on my leg from the compression of the cement and I’m pretty sure it’s like sweat,” Canela showed Dan Noyes. “And a rope burned when I tried to get up.”
This week marks Canela’s sixth birthday at US Pipe. He looks forward to getting back to work and thanking the firefighters, his colleagues, his friends and his family.
“I just wanted to make sure everyone really knows that I’m grateful and appreciate all the support I’ve received.”
Cal-OSHA is investigating what happened – the final report could take six months. Joel tells me it wasn’t a policy to wear a safety harness over this mixer, but now it is.
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