Local Contractor Seriously Injured in Equipment Accident
Local excavating contractor Gene Brown was seriously injured last Thursday afternoon, November 9, in a heavy equipment accident one mile from Lake City on Henson Creek.
Following the accident, Brown, 64, was rushed by ambulance to Gunnison with life-threatening injuries and then airlifted by helicopter to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.
Following two multi-hour surgeries, Brown is resting comfortably in the Grand Junction hospital, although he remains in the intensive care unit.
According to Brown’s daughter, Crystal Brown, no schedule has been announced for her father’s release from ICU. As of Tuesday, there are encouraging signs, however. He was taken off assisted breathing apparatus on Monday and, as of Tuesday, he sat up in bed.
Once out of ICU, Brown will be transferred to the patient floor at St. Mary’s and, after that, will undergo prolonged rehabilitation.
The series of events leading to his life-threatening accident began mid-afternoon on Thursday after he noticed icy conditions on the mountain road leading to the Craig Suiter construction project. The access road crosses a bridge at the old Pelican millsite on Henson Creek.
Access across the private bridge is limited with a decorative metal gate and fencing which were crafted and installed by Powderhorn blacksmith Terry Klug earlier this summer.
After filling the bucket of his 2009 front end loader with gravel, Brown stopped the vehicle as he proceeded to unlock the gate. While standing facing the gate, the front end loader rolled forward, pinning him against the gate.
Brown, situated between the loader with its bucket full of gravel and the metal fence, was partially crushed at mid-level of his back.
Within minutes of the accident — which occurred at approximately 4:30 p.m. — the stricken man was discovered by Keith Reynolds, who is completing several work projects for adjoining landowner Jim Browning.
Sensing the seriousness of the accident and with Brown at the point of unconsciousness, Reynolds jumped into the loader and maneuvered it away from Brown.
Hinsdale EMTs responded to the scene and rather than a delayed wait for helicopter evacuation, the decision was made to immediately transport Brown to Gunnison by Hinsdale County ambulance. In Gunnison, he was stabilized and then transported at 8 p.m. by helicopter to the Grand Junction hospital.
St. Mary’s surgical staff then performed an immediate four-hour surgery repairing a lower portion of his aorta near its juncture with his kidneys. Due to the serious nature of the aorta rupture, one of Brown’s kidneys was lost while one was saved and is functioning properly.
A second three-hour surgery took place at St. Mary’s Hospital on Sunday during which surgeons repaired Brown’s fractured thoracic-12 vertebrae.
Of strong constitution, Brown cracked a slight smile from his hospital bed earlier this week when his brother, Chris Brown, related a political joke. In addition to heading the well known excavating firm WebCo Excavation, Brown and his wife, Yolie, are raising their two grandsons, Dawson and Dean. The boys are the sons of Brown’s late son, Josh Brown, who was killed in a heavy equipment accident in 2010.
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