On 3 November 2013 Tom Gabriel was splitting wood at his home in Ludham; breaking down logs for his wood burner. The wood splitter worked by pulling larger pieces of wood through a cone, splitting them into smaller pieces. A piece of wood got stuck, and, as he had done many times before, Tom kicked the piece of wood to push it through. Unlike the other times the machine caught his right foot and dragged it in. Tom tried to turn the machine off, but did the reverse and increased the throttle.
Once his foot was wedged the machine cut out; he was wearing steel toe capped boots which helped. His dog Molly was with him and as Tom called for help Molly made more and more noise, getting Tom’s wife Kate’s attention, as well as the attention of the neighbours. Kate called 999 and a paramedic was there in minutes. The paramedic provided pain relief – although Tom doesn’t remember it as a painful experience. Tom’s neighbour and his brother started to try and dismantle the machine to release Tom’s foot. The fire brigade arrived and wanted to cut the machine part, but given the thickness of the plates involved it made more sense to continue to dismantle it and then manually unwind the foot.
The accident hasn’t put me off log splitting, although I have changed my methods since the accident!
The air ambulance carrying critical-care paramedic Chris Neil, Doctor Daniel Kornhall and Audin Langahelle arrived in the meantime and provided additional pain relief to ensure that the removal of the foot from the machine wasn’t excruciating.
Tom had three broken toes and a chunk of flesh missing from his big toe. He was taken by road to the James Paget Hospital and patched up, before being referred to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital for a skin graft. He was an inpatient for a total of a week.
He was unable to drive for 2 months, but as he works from home in commercial insurance he was able to carry on working.
There have been no long lasting effects, and the accident hasn’t put him off log splitting, although he has changed his methods since the accident!