“It was basically just an ordinary day,” said Jerry Townsend.
But that ordinary day -- Aug. 30, 2013 -- drastically changed in a few seconds.
Townsend was working as a heavy equipment operator in Monroeville when the hose of a 16-ton paver snapped and caused the machine to go out of control.
“At the end it reached somewhere between 65 to 75 mph,” Townsend said. “[I felt] a slight panic. I knew something was wrong.”
Townsend said he had two options: hit five oncoming cars or veer off into a nearby wooded area.
“I was in a no win situation for myself, and I didn’t see any reason to put anybody else in the same situation,” said Townsend.
Townsend said he steered the piece of heavy machinery into the wooded area, where he ended up face down in a muddy ditch, underneath the paver.
He was trapped for more than an hour while crews worked to free him.
Dr. Jehangir Badar, of Forbes Regional Hospital’s new trauma center, was among the team of people who rushed to help Townsend.
“I thought even if he's going to live, he's not going to be able to walk,” Badar said.
Townsend suffered a broken neck, a collapsed lung, crushed legs and severe open wounds. But after several surgeries and just 28 days in the hospital Townsend walked out of the hospital.
He was the first patent to be treated at Forbes’ new trauma center. Badar said trauma centers are specialized hospitals with specific resources to reduce the likelihood of death or permanent disability in life-threatening injuries.
Forbes is the only trauma program in the Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs. If it wasn’t so close by, doctors said Townsend’s story could have ended much differently.