A Baltimore public works employee was dragged into a jammed asphalt-patching truck yesterday morning in Mill Hill, then became stuck for two hours as workers struggled to free his mangled body.
Eric Williams, 27, was in critical condition last night at Maryland Shock Trauma Center after he tried to clear a chute that sucks in asphalt, then spits it out for patching potholes. He was on a crew working in the 2600 block of Dulaney St. as part of Operation Benedict, a three-day neighborhood cleanup by city agencies.
Williams, of the 2700 block of W. Lafayette Ave., crawled into the back of the asphalt patching truck about 10: 15 a.m. Minutes later Williams' left leg became tangled in the auger, causing him to scream for help. Two men who appeared to be working with Williams tried to stop the auger, witnesses said.
"The driver did not know how to turn it off," said resident Matthew S. Heaton. "The man [who was] stuck knew how to operate it, and he was screaming out instructions."
Things appeared to get worse, though, as the workers fiddled with knobs, witnesses said.
"He kept getting sucked in further and further, and finally you did not see him," resident Denine Spann said.
The driver of the truck, identified by police as Donald Robinson, declined to comment.
The auger was turned off within minutes as dozens of emergency workers came to the scene.
Firefighters used blow torches and other rescue equipment to free Williams about 12: 20 p.m. The Maryland Shock Trauma GOTEAM -- a squad of doctors who do emergency on-site amputations -- came to the accident, a hospital spokeswoman said. It was unclear last night whether any of his limbs had been removed.
Baltimore's Police and Public Works departments are conducting investigations.
Public Works Director George G. Balog said all employees who work on the city's 10 road asphalt-patching crews are trained to operate the machinery. He said it is not unusual for workers to climb into the truck's rear, which slants inward. He declined to comment further on the accident until an investigation is completed.
Public Works spokesman Kurt L. Kocher said only one other man was working with Williams and that another city employee might have tried to rescue him.
Balog said the 1994 Ford truck had recently passed a safety inspection.