Location: Wilsonville, Oregon
Date: December 23, 1991
Craig Hoffman was on his usual shift as a glass cutter in Wilsonville, Oregon, on the morning of December 23, 1991, assisting coworker Rich Adams in the dangerous operation of cutting large sheets of raw glass. As the supply on the cutting table neared its end, Rich sent Craig for a new case of glass. Craig, clothed in protective leather, approached the ten-foot cases, each filled with two tons of untempered glass sheets measuring six by eleven feet. Using wire cutters, Craig cut through the first of four metal safety straps that securely held the sheets in place. But the sheets of glass had been incorrectly balanced, and they toppled forward to crash on top of him. The impact of four thousand pounds of jagged shards hurled Craig backward, causing his head to slam into an opposing case of glass, which now dangled precariously above him.
The deafening shatter of glass brought the factory to a standstill. Rich and other coworkers rushed to Craig, who was conscious and struggling to push the glass off his body. Plant manager Larry Henry noticed the commotion on the floor and ran over. By the time he scrambled onto the mountain of shards to begin digging, Craig had lost consciousness.
A call for help sent rescue units form Tualatin Valley Fire Department and Buck Medical Service to the scene. While they were en route, Craig's coworkers, including acting supervisor and old friend Kevin Smith, joined Henry in digging furiously to extricate Craig from the glass. "My heart dropped right out when I saw Craig," recalls Kevin, who was worried that Craig would be dead before rescuers could get to him.
Within five minutes, fire rescue units arrived and radioed for a LifeFlight helicopter to be put on standby. Paramedic Gene Ditter initially thought Craig stood little chance of surviving. He was without a pulse and wasn't breathing. Paramedic Tom Duthie administered CPR, although he also felt Craig was not going to make it, considering that less than one in one hundred trauma patients without a pulse can be revived.
Because Craig's jaw was tightly clenched, paramedics were unable to administer a flow of oxygen until LifeFlight arrived. Flight nurse Sue Geleski injected Craig wth a drug that causes temporary paralysis, allowing Ditter to open Craig's jaw and insert an oxygen tube. Coworkers stood by in despair as their lifeless friend was loaded into the helicopter.
Meanwhile, Craig's wife, Jean, received news of the accident at home. She rushed to the hospital, knowing the situation was critical when she heard the name LifeFight. Craig was admitted to Oregon Health Sciences Hospital and underwent surgery to repair a ruptured lung and numerous fractures to both legs. His prognosis for survival was grim, due to extensive internal injuries.
Remarkably, as the days passed, Craig's condition began to improve. Three weeks later, he was discharged from the hospital without any brain damage, an amazing development considering he had been without oxygen for eight minutes. After six months of rehabilitation, he returned to work--in an office job.
Dr. Donald Trunkey attributes part of Craig's survival to his coworkers' and rescuers' quick actions. "If any credit is due, it's to the people at the scene. They did a fantastic job," praises Dr. Trunkey. Jean feels very lucky that Craig is alive, and he concurs. "I think it's a miracle," he says. "I'd like to thank a lot of people for praying for me.