George J. Preissler helped to rescue Heinrich W. Wenzel following a cave-in, Britannia Beach, British Columbia, November 1, 1960. When 2,000 tons of rock fell in an ore mine where he was working, Wenzel, 44, miner, was trapped in a seated position in a small chamber formed by the debris, which included timbers used to form the working levels of the mine. One timber nearly severed his arm just below the shoulder, but the artery was pinched shut and did not bleed. Preissler, 29, miner, and other miners called out to Wenzel, who reported his situation and physical condition. John Johnson, Dr. Barrie C. Flather, and mine officials arrived. Unable to find an opening in the rubble, Preissler, Johnson, and others began digging in gravel which had been used to backfill the lower levels previously mined. They excavated a tunnel three feet wide and four feet high for 35 feet just under the flooring of the level 10 feet below Wenzel’s position. Preissler and Johnson then cut and carefully removed timbers, which had penetrated from the working level above. With only dim light from the lamp of his miner’s hat, Preissler wriggled through the opening in the debris into a passage 18 inches high and wide, the bottom of which sloped upward in the direction of Wenzel. Taking care not to dislodge debris at the points where clearance was as little as 14 inches, Preissler squirmed through the rubble for 14 feet and reached Wenzel’s chamber, which had an opening one foot in diameter. Wenzel said he was in considerable pain. Preissler wriggled backward through the, debris and returned to the other men. He reported on conditions and then cautiously crawled back to Wenzel with water and a pain-killing drug. Wenzel took them but said that he could not get through the chamber’s small opening with his injured arm. Preissler again returned to the tunnel entrance. Dr. Flather, who was larger than Preissler, volunteered to try to reach Wenzel and give medical aid. To make sure passage was possible for Dr. Flather, Johnson, who was about the same size as he, crawled to the end of the tunnel and then into the debris. In making his way to and from Wenzel’s position, Johnson nearly became stuck at the low points of the passage. After hearing Johnson’s report, Dr. Flather crawled into the tunnel and entered the debris, taking with him a first-aid kit. His body pressed against the rubble at the low points as he squirmed his way to Wenzel’s chamber. Wenzel urged him to amputate his arm. Dr. Flather was unable to reach Wenzel until the latter had maneuvered so that his injured arm was opposite the opening. Dr. Flather quickly performed the amputation. He then returned to outside the tunnel, again experiencing difficulty at the low points, and reported that Wenzel was ready to be led out. Preissler once more made his way back through the debris. At the urging of Preissler, Wenzel with difficulty squirmed through the opening. He followed Preissler downward through the passage and thence out of the tunnel. Wenzel was hospitalized and recuperated for eight months.
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