Man gets leg caught in machinery at concrete plant

A concrete worker injured his leg when he caught it in a conveyor belt 30 feet off the ground at Capital City Concrete about noon Friday.

Jessie Sotelo, 34, was flown by a Care Flight helicopter to Washoe Medical Center.

He had been sitting down, busting concrete loose with a breaker bar when his leg was pulled into the belt, he explained later from the hospital.

"Before I knew anything my leg was smashed. I screamed -- It hurt bad," he said.

He was working at the top of an 80-foot "swing chute" conveyor belt, which feeds gravel into bins. When his right lower leg and foot got caught in the machinery, his coworkers shut off the machine and called 911.

"If they had turned it back on it would have ripped my leg to shreds, I'm sure of it," he said.

Carson City firefighters freed him, loaded him on a stretcher and carried him down the sloping steel mesh ramp.

"You're going to get a ride on a helicopter, brother!" said a co-worker as they hauled him down.

Sotelo cried out in pain when rescue crews turned the orange stretcher sideways to fit him between the railings of the walkway. He already had broken ribs from a dirt-biking wreck three weeks earlier, he said.

His leg was not broken, he said, but badly crushed.

"It just smashed my leg and turned my calf muscle into jelly," he said.

He was employed by Manpower Temporary Services and had been working at the concrete plant for more than a month, said plant manager Ken Uber.

Mixer truck driver Gregg Geissler was headed up the driveway when he saw the lights and sirens.

"I called Barry the dispatcher and asked him what was going on," he said. "He said Jesse got caught in the turnhead."

Geissler said Sotelo is a hard-working employee.

"He was actually one of the better ones," he said. "They were talking about training him to drive one of the water trucks."

He said Sotelo's job was "yard crew" -- doing cleanup under belts and around the site.

Sotelo said he hopes to get back to work soon.

"I don't want to lose my job. I'm working for some really good people over there. Kenny gave me some time to heal (after the dirt bike accident) and then this happened. But what are you going to do, it was an accident."

He had been working at the plant since June 24, according to a spokesman for Manpower.

As the blue Care Flight helicopter lifted off, white semi-trucks and mixers continued with their work, dumping loads of gravel. His girlfriend, Cynthia Martinez and her daughter "Little Bubba" or Cynthia Jr. followed it toward the hospital.

Bill Sharp, a safety specialist with the regional Occupational Health and Safety Office, arrived in a Jeep.

"I'm just here to check for any violations," he said.

Afterwards employees in dusty orange T-shirts talked in the break room under the conveyor belt where Sotelo was injured.

"At least he got a free ride in a helicopter," said Geissler.

"Ain't nothing free," remarked another driver. "They said it could cost him about $6,000."

Sotelo said he would spend at least one night in the hospital and possibly go through surgery.

"I just hope they don't have to amputate my leg -- then I won't be able to do any dirt biking."


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