Day of Mourning highlights dangers on the job

By Chad Klassen
April 29, 2016 - 9:11am Updated: April 29, 2016 - 12:31pm

KAMLOOPS — Mark Johnson was like any 21-year-old man. He loved to play sports, hang out with his friends, and had dreams about getting married one day and having children. 

That dream for his life changed in an instant September 18, 2006, nine months into his second job ever working at a mill, cleaning the chipper on night shift. 

WATCH: Full report by Chad Klassen

"As I was cleaning up a pile of wood chips, I basically went underneath a running conveyer belt," remembers Johnson, who's from Maple Ridge. "And sure enough, without even thinking, I stuck my left hand in between the two rubber belts. My glove was rubber-tipped, and my rubber glove stuck to the rubber belt and pulled my entire left arm into the machine. 

"My forearm snapped in half and wrapped around the roller, pulling my back against the top belt and the machine continued to run."

Johnson lost all feeling in his left arm immediately, and that has never gone away. 

"Still to this day, I cannot feel my left arm. I have no use of it. It doesn't do anything, it just hangs there," he says. 

But that wasn't the end of it. As the conveyer belt kept running, the pain then kicked in. 

"The pain was on my back," says Johnson. "The belt had continued to run over my back enough times that it had ripped off the high-viz vest I was wearing, it knocked off my helmet, then it started to rip off the t-shirt off my back, and then the skin off my back."

After almost a half an hour, Johnson could see his life coming to an end. 

"I hope none of you have to know the feeling you're going to die," he says. "It's hard to grasp. In my head, the only thing I could think to do is, 'well, I hope I go to heaven.' So in my head, I said 'sorry God for my sins, I hope you can take me to heaven.' I just looked up, and for the amount of pain my back was in, I said 'please God, make it stop.' Well after I said that, the machine shut down. 

That saved Johnson's life. He now speaks to schools and at events like the National Day of Mourning to emphasize the importance of safety and putting that first over anything. 

"I don't know why I was saved, but I was saved and I want to save everybody else." 

Johnson is now married and still plays baseball. 

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