PUEBLO, Colo. - An inmate at a Colorado prison suffered a serious saw injury while working through a prison-work program.
When lumber got stuck in a conveyor belt at Pueblo Wood Products, inmate Kandy Fuelling, upon receiving the green light from her supervisor, reached to dislodge the wood. Without warning, "a saw came straight at her head", slicing through her helmet and scalp - causing her to bleed profusely.
Fuelling let out a loud scream, says the civil lawsuit, but her voice was muffled by the noise of the saw.
The lawsuit names Pueblo Wood Products and 10 people as defendants. One of the defendants is Fuelling’s supervisor who allegedly had assured her the saw was turned off.
Fuelling, 48, is also suing employees of the Colorado Department of Corrections, who apparently drove her back to the La Vista Correctional Facility instead of taking her to the hospital. The lawsuit states that Fuelling - who was still bleeding and screaming - should have been immediately rushed to the emergency room.
Pueblo Wood Products has not yet been available for comment.
“As a for-profit program run by (Corrections Industries), on behalf of CDOC, corners were cut and on-the-job-safety training took a back seat to profit margins earned by Pueblo Wood, CCI and DOC,” the lawsuit says. Fuelling’s safety training consisted of receiving four pages of tips including advice for how to avoid back injuries and getting cuts from sharp objects.
Fuelling's version of the incident is explained below in graphic detail:
Fuelling was wearing steel-toed boots, a helmet, and gloves as she worked on the sawmill’s top platform when a piece of lumber got lodged in the conveyor belt, jamming it. Inmates and supervisors assured her that they had turned the saw off and it was safe to yank the lumber from under the conveyor belt.
She yanked on the piece of lumber until she managed to pull it free.
The saw immediately came directly towards her. It ripped through her helmet, “barreled” through her skin and punctured her cranium. Pieces of her “head matter” stuck to her shirt and she began bleeding profusely. Dazed and shaky, she was able to move out from under the conveyor belt and into the sight line of crew members.
“In shock, she began drifting in and out of consciousness…Fuelling was terrified to remove her hands from her skull because she was scared that her head was going to fall apart.”
With no first-aid kit on hand at the sawmill, someone put two feminine hygiene pads on Fuelling’s bleeding skull. No one called 911 or summoned an ambulance. Instead, fellow inmates helped her back to the prison transport van and worked to keep her awake on the ride back to the prison.
Despite repeated calls to a La Vista prison supervisor to explain Fuelling’s injuries were grave, a shift commander ordered Fuelling returned to the prison.
Upon returning to the prison, nurses urged that Fuelling be taken to the hospital by ambulance. By the time she arrived, Fuelling reported feeling nausea, dizziness, and blurred vision. She received 15 stitches.
Within a few weeks after returning to prison, Fuelling experienced intense headaches and was feeling disoriented - bumping into walls and displaying odd behavior.
Fuelling filed the lawsuit this week in a Denver District Court.