Alex often said that his mistakes turned out to be the best thing after all. The following account is a great example of this conviction he had.
Late in the fall of 1976, Alex , and his brother in law Bob Whiteway, were finishing the last of the three 60 ft. high tanks in Hay River, Northwest Territories, for Gulf Oil. Since mid summer, they had perfected a very effective team of manipulating, fitting, wedging and spot welding each ring of steel as it was unwound from the huge coils. This was ring 30. The weather was turning cold. The two welders, who worked the night shift,were eagerly waiting for their last shift of finish welding the circumference to begin, so they could get back to their homes in Yellowknife.
Those 20 ton rolls of steel were often difficult to straighten, at the core. Bob feeling the pressure, stuck a 6 foot steel bar into the massive rollers, in hopes it would free it up. Instead, the rollers grabbed that bar, and whacked Bob in the chest.
Over the noise of the working machine, Alex heard a strange noise of air being forced from Bob’s lungs and also the clatter of the bar having been launched across the steel floor. To his horror, he saw Bob skidding across that floor like a “rag doll”
. He raced to Bob, who was clutching his chest, not breathing, with absolute panic in his eyes.
Determining, that Bob couldn’t breath, he ran for the cutting torches, presuming he needed oxygen. As he opened the valve, and the gas hissed into Bob’s mouth, his body slumped and his eyes closed. In a panic, Alex looked down and was further chagrined to see he had given him propane, instead of oxygen. He immediately switched to the oxygen and Bob’s eyes began to flicker. It was something he did thousands of times before, many times a working day, and he was so upset that at such a crucial time he could possibly make a mistake.
Off they went to the local hospital, where Dr. Sethi examined him and exclaimed, upon seeing the huge red and blue welt on his chest,
“I have no idea why you are alive. We had a young man in here recently, who was slapped on the chest with a large rope, with no visible sign, and he never breathed again. You see the diaphragm goes into a spasm and your lungs never draw another breath. If I had been there with my little black bag, I would not have been able to save you.” A very precise amount of anesthetic to relax the diaphragm would be needed.”
Alex, still uneasy about what he had done said;” Would a hydracarbon do the same thing?”
Dr Sethi: “What are you trying to tell me?’
Alex: “I accidentally filled him with propane.”
Dr Sethi: “You accidentally saved his life”.
Again, what or Who guided that hand, overruling his natural reflexes? How grateful we were that he didn’t need to call his sister Marg to tell her she was a widow.
SO GRATEFUL Bob is still with us.