- Associated Press - Saturday, June 27, 2015

PERKASIE, Pa. (AP) - In August, both his legs were crushed in an accident at the Warrington quarry. Two months ago, he returned to work wearing a prosthesis where his lower left leg had been. He knows he will need to have his right knee replaced.

“I’ve never worked for a stronger man,” said Jeff Zaks, of Perkasie, the control room operator at the quarry. “For him to come back from such an injury is amazing.”

Carr, 52, used four words to describe why he came back: “This is my job.”

He recently visited the nearby Warrington Fire Co. to thank the firefighters who helped rescue him.

The day that changed his life - Aug. 12, 2014 - started normally. A truckload of large rocks was delivered to a feeder for the crusher machine, which crushes them into small pieces, the first step in producing the end product, gravel. But the crusher broke down.

Carr climbed into the room-sized machine to set off 16 dynamite charges to crack the stones in the crusher so it could be emptied and cleaned out.

“I’ve done this a few times. I knew there was material in the feeder above the crusher but it seemed solid. Then the feeder started leaning forward.

“I heard the first rock come down. I jumped out of the way. Luckily, it hit my legs … The first rock came down and hit me sideways and snapped the left leg and then I couldn’t move. I heard the other one come and it hit on the inside and snapped my right leg.”

With a 1,500 pound rock pinning his left leg, Carr looked up and saw a second rock falling. It was about 800 pounds and shaped like a saucer. He prayed it wouldn’t hit him from the waist up, but that if it did, it would “hit me in the head and end it.”

As the rock fell, he deflected it from his chest and onto his leg. Then he waited to be rescued. “I was trapped,” he said.

Zaks, who was nearby, recalled the incident.

“I think I should have been in there,” he said. He had just offered to relieve Carr so Carr could get a Gatorade. But Carr, who was foreman, told him he would finish the job. “Then we heard the stones . something broke loose.”

“It was one of the scariest days of my life, but anything could happen anywhere,” Zaks said.

Wilfredo Figueroa, of Philadelphia, who has been acting foreman since the accident, called 911 and organized other workers to be in place to help the rescue personnel when they arrived. Then both men and the other quarry workers helped to shore up the stones in the feeder area so that rescue personnel could safely work to remove Carr.

The quarry is owned by James D. Morrissey Inc. Figueroa said the training they received from Morrissey safety director Jim Furey helped them in the rescue. “The safety course he gave us helped us a lot,” Figueroa said.

Zaks saw Carr placing boards around himself to shore the stones in the crusher so that the firefighters could safely come to his aid. “He was helping us to help him.”

Furey, environmental safety director for Morrissey and a Southampton firefighter, said the employees are required to go through a safety training course each year and participate in “toolbox talks that stress safety.” An accident like this had never happened before, he said. “We’ve always tried to ensure that everyone was safe.”

Since the accident, an extra barrier gate has been added “to cover the feeder, so that never happens again,” Furey said.

The combined team of quarry workers and rescue personnel used a hydraulic pump and “come-along” straps to get the stones off Carr’s legs. The rescue took the better part of an hour.

“The pain didn’t hit me until they picked me up from my arms and stood me up,” Carr said.

Meanwhile, his wife, Dawn Schmidt, who works in the quarry office, had run outside to find out what happened when she saw the rescue vehicles arrive.

The two have been married just two years. She had lost her first husband to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a paralyzing condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The first worker she saw, who was directing the emergency vehicles to the accident scene, wasn’t aware she was married to Carr.

“I yelled, ‘What happened?’ ” Schmidt recalled.

“Bob Carr was crushed in the crusher,” the worker had told her. “What did you say?” she asked him. When he repeated the information, she told him, “I’m his wife.” The man became upset and told her he hadn’t known.

Police wouldn’t let her near the accident site but they assured her he was alive and gave her updates on the rescue. When he was placed in the ambulance, she was allowed to see him briefly before he was whisked away to Abington Memorial Hospital.

Carr spent a week in Abington and then was transferred to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He had 22 fractures and underwent eight surgeries during his month there, including the amputation of his lower left leg when gangrene set in. His left knee no longer bends. His right leg was put in a halo with 16 pins holding it together until it healed.

When he left the Penn hospital, he was transferred to Moss Rehab in Elkins Park, where he spent the next three months learning how to compensate for his lost mobility.

Physical therapist Nikki Sosa worked with him. “She was great. She got me out of bed, told me I could walk again when I didn’t think I could,” he said.

He also praised occupational therapist Shiney Smiley - whose name alone helped him. She showed him how to dress and care for himself when he was so immobile.

“You feel sorry for yourself,” he admitted. There were days when he didn’t try to get better, but then he saw people in worse shape than himself. His wife said she felt that all the anesthesia he had received from the multiple operations may have affected him. The mood finally lifted.

“All of a sudden he said, ‘I’ve got to get out of a funk,’” she said. He started shaving and trying to walk.

“The nurses said, ‘Bob Carr, you look great,’” his wife recalled. “Kudos to Moss. They got him up and walking.”

Meanwhile, she was trying to settle in their new home in Perkasie while making trips to the hospitals. The couple was supposed to move from Chalfont to Perkasie a few days after the accident occurred. Schmidt went to the settlement alone and friends and family members helped her make the move. The couple has four children between them. He has a son serving in the Marines and a daughter in Florida; Schmidt has two grown daughters living nearby.

Carr is now getting used to being back at work. Ramps are tough because his knee doesn’t bend, but he’s glad to be back.

“It’s getting better and easier,” he said. “The guys did a great job.”

Carr has invited fire and rescue personnel to do some extra training at the site so they are more familiar with it, if another emergency were to occur.

Furey said that James Morrissey and everyone in the company like Carr and are glad to see he’s returned to work.

“He’s a great guy and the guys he works with are great guys,” he said.

Carr wanted to thank Morrissey, his coworkers, rescue personnel, the medical teams, family and friends, and especially his wife, for helping him in his recovery.

“I’m glad he’s back,” she said, patting his shaved cheek. “I’m definitely glad he’s back. He’s doing great.”

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1QM9MTj

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Information from: The Intelligencer, http://www.theintell.com

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