October 24, 2017

Man inflated “like a balloon” in freak accident

Steve McCormack blew up to twice his normal size.

A truck driver from the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand says he felt like a human balloon when compressed air was forced into his body after he fell on to a brass fitting that pierced his buttock.

Steven McCormack, 48, was standing on the plate between the cab of his truck and semi-trailer at Waiotahi Contractors last Saturday.

His foot slipped and, as he fell, he broke the hose off a brass nipple connected to the compressed air reservoir powering the truck’s brakes.

He fell hard on to the nipple, which pierced the flesh of his left buttock, releasing compressed air at 100 poundspersquare inch into his body.

“I felt the air rush into my body and I felt like it was going to explode from my foot,” Mr McCormack said.

“I was blowing up like a football… it felt like I had the bends – like in diving. I had no choice but just to lay there, blowing up like a balloon.”

Mr McCormack’s workmates heard his screams and found him with the elbow-shaped nipple hooked into his rear end, company co-owner Robbie Petersen said.

He said he could hear the air hissing out and quickly released the pressurised container’s safety valve to stop the air flow.

The nipple remained embedded as three men – Jason Wenham, Ross Hustler and Mr Petersen – lifted Mr McCormack’s upper torso on to the truck’s plate.

Mr Wenham put him on his side in the recovery position, a move Mr McCormack thought probably saved his life.

It helped him breathe, although his head and neck were swollen and one lung was filling with fluid.

Doctors later told him that the air separated fat from muscle, and they were surprised it did not break his skin.

Despite the “million-to-one freak accident”, Mr McCormack was cheerful in Whakatane Hospital’s intensive care unit yesterday, saying he felt “lucky to be alive”.

He said his skin felt “like a pork roast” – crackling on the outside but soft underneath.