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Arm contact with spinning propeller

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Paramotor Frame: Simonini EVO 230 with

Incident Details

May 11, 2014
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So yet another dumb prop injury. In September was working on my engine in the garage. Was considering the addition of a shielding system to stop the ignition from producing radio interference when using my aviation band radio. Part of this involved making slight adjustments to the shielding and then starting the motor to see if the interference was still present. Start it for 10 seconds and check it, kill it and make a “tweak” then start it again for another check. This start/stop cycle occurred many times as I worked on the shielding. Initially I was quite careful; securing the motor and always having the safety cage in place. But after the umpteenth time of starting/checking/killing/tweaking and starting again I got cavalier. Because adjusting the shielding meant partially removing the cage and securing system, I began taking short cuts, not reinstalling the cage or securing the motor in between tweaks. –No problem, only running it at idle for 5 seconds, what could go wrong? Well, nothing did go wrong for quite a while. Then on the last start cycle, when I had the engine at idle I thought to myself, “I’m might fly tomorrow, maybe I should check the low screw on the carb for proper adjustment….” So with my left hand firmly holding the motor and my right hand holding the throttle, I “goosed” it to check acceleration off of idle. Keep in mind I’ve done this very thing hundreds of times w/o problem. …..What happened after I “goosed” it is somewhat of a blur. I either hit the cruise control accidentally or did something stupid with the throttle ’cause the motor spun up very nicely without hesitation but then got stuck at full power. It was over in less than a half second. –I’d always prepped myself to hit the kill switch if something like this ever happened but now I can see I was just dreaming. It happens so fast and is such a surprise that there’s really not much time to do anything. I was in a pretty normal position for this type of ground start; the motor was on the ground and I was on one knee in front of it. As it spun up and got to full power it of course starting coming at me. And, because the axis of the prop rotation is relatively high, the plane of rotation of the prop began to tilt forward toward the space my head and neck occupied and with no cage in place there was nothing between it and me. The motor also got slightly off to the left and started to angle around my left side. And it was pushing hard! As I pulled my head and neck out of the way and slightly turned away from it, the prop went into the upper portion of the back of my left arm, quite high up where your deltoid meets the tricep. It went through my tricep and then hit and broke the humerus. I kept a grip on it through this and the motor rolled down to the concrete where the three carbon fiber blades broke off (this was actually quite impressive with a lot of noise and carbon fiber flying every which way) so there were only little 6″ stubs remaining. I then stood up and left the motor on its back, still running but now at idle with the prop hub and stubby little remnants of blades rattling along into the concrete. I then carefully reached down and shut off the master kill switch. I got shocky very quickly and had to lie down. I was carted off to a good trauma center in the bay area and where a couple surgeons put the pieces back together. I was off work for three months and had a excellent recovery, regaining essentially full use of my arm. I was very lucky. So that’s the story. A lot of stupidity to go around here and many opportunities to break the chain of events that led to this accident. Another factor not mentioned above was that the day before I’d returned from travel through many time zones and was pretty jet lagged and sleep deprived so really shouldn’t have been fooling with the motor to begin with. And for all of us who start motors when they aren’t on our backs, you almost can’t be too careful. Think realistically about precautions to take to prevent your body from being parablended. And if you think that having your thumb on the kill switch is a viable precaution ….well maybe, but for me it’s a pipe dream. Things happen so fast and if your thumb gets jerked off that kill switch for even less than half a second, it’ll probably be over before you know it’s begun. –I’m thinking securing the motor is the only sure way to go; even if I had the cage in place, that may have helped …but the motor still would have been moving around and I could have stuck my arm/hand through the cage and into the prop.

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