Looking back for Oct. 30, 1958
November 2, 2008
Man’s leg amputated at coal mine
Steamboat Springs — Two Steamboat men out on a hunting party and a Hayden doctor who thought he was out on a routine call were faced Monday with a desperate situation in which a man’s leg had to be amputated with the crudest of instruments.
Don Harsh and Harold Tucker heard screams for help coming from the old Rice mine south of Hayden about 8:45 that morning. They rushed to the sound and found William Oehsner, 54, his leg jammed in the inspection hole on the side of a conveyor running coal from the mine, between the steel covering and the cogwheel. His foot went up around the shaft, doubled above his knee with the machine still running.
Dr. James Horne, finding no other way to release the miner, used a dull hunting knife, hack saw and key hole saw to amputate his leg.
“The man was supporting his body from doubling back by hanging onto a power line several feet above the ground,” Harsh said. While Harsh supported the man’s weight, Tucker was told how to turn the machine off and hurried to do so. Then Tucker rushed down to the main buildings and found the night man still on duty.
Meanwhile, Harsh saw two women passing in a car, and, holding the miner’s weight with one hand, shouted and waved the women down. He told them to rush a doctor out, and they drove to Hayden and contacted Dr. Horne. The women were Mrs. William Barnes and Mrs. Marvin Barnes, of Hayden.
The first men who arrived from the building helped build a scaffold to support Oehsner’s weight. When the doctor arrived, with no knowledge of the circumstances, he had to use what was at hand to effect the amputation.
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While freezing water dripped on him from the tipple, Dr. Horne amputated the man’s leg above the knee after giving him a shot of painkiller to relieve his tremendous pain. A tourniquet was tightened to prevent further loss of blood.
Harsh, who had placed a canopy over the doctor while he operated, said Oehsner was fully conscious throughout the long ordeal. “I’ve never seen a man with so much grit,” Harsh said. “I talked to him, all the time holding his weight – about his family, his own life – anything I could do to try to keep him conscious while the women went for help.”
It was about 10:15 a.m. before the doctor had finished, and the miner was rushed by ambulance to the Hayden Hospital, about two hours from the time of the accident.
At the hospital, Dr. Horne was joined by Dr. Vernon Price and Dr. Robert Kulp, both of Steamboat, who performed a second operation on the unfortunate miner.
Harsh and Tucker were praised by Dr. Horne for their efforts in the trying ordeal. He said Wednesday that Oehsner was in fair condition at the Solandt Memorial Hospital in Hayden.
Chlorine harmless but necessary, Struble says
The Steamboat water supply may have a touch of chlorine in it, but the chemical is necessary to keep the water safe in the opinion of the town board and health department officials.
Roy Struble, a town trustee and chairman of the Water and Safety Committee, said he is keeping a daily check on the amount of chlorine in the water. For the past three days, a check at his store and home – on two separate water lines – has shown the chemical has come into the system at an even rate.
Struble said the addition of the chlorine has become necessary with the great increase in travel to the high country of this area. Many streams that eventually feed into the reservoir now are contaminated. Campgrounds are opening up and the new road to the top of Buffalo Pass is nearing completion.
Struble emphasized the chlorine, though it sometimes gives a faint color or odor to the water, is harmless when added to the water. It has been showing up in the town at a rate of 0.15 in a million parts of water this week, a minute amount. Safe reports on the water have come in steadily during the testing.