McCormack was working on his tractor trailer at a gas station in Whakatane, on the North Island’s east coast, when he slipped and fell, landing on a broken high pressure air valve.
“In a matter of minutes my body blew up to twice the size, I could only see out of one eye,” McCormack told 3News.
The nipple of the valve punctured the 48-year-old’s left buttock, pumping air into his body at 100 lbs. per square inch. The pressure drove air into every possible space in his body, separating fat from muscle and compressing his lungs and heart.
“The sensation was like when you’re diving with the bends, and you have to go back down to let the air pressure come off your body,” McCormack said. “I could hear the sound of the air going into me and the people walking around me, but they didn’t want to get near because of what they could see, it wasn’t a very nice sight.”
His boss, Robbie Peterson, and two other workers tried to pull him off the valve -- to no avail. “We couldn’t get him off the nipple because the angle acted like a hook,” Peterson said.
There were able to shut off the airflow, but the tank had already pumped half its contents into McCormack’s body, according to Peterson. Barely able to breath, blind in one eye and in excruciating pain, paramedics still didn’t arrive at the gas station for about an hour.
Paramedics had a difficult time treating him because of the pressure his body was under. “They went to put a drip in me, and they pushed the needle in and it spat right out,” McCormack said. Once in the emergency room, doctors had to insert a breathing tube through his torso into his lungs, allowing him to breathe normally.
It took the trucker about three days to shrink back to his normal size, the time for the air to naturally disperse. “You can’t turn a tap on and let it out,” McCormack said. “You just have to fart it out, or burp it out.”
McCormack is now looking forward to getting back to work after making a miraculous recovery, considering that he didn’t suffer any permanent damage.