Employees at the American Colloid Co. bentonite plant have rallied around the family of Tracey “Trey” Englert, who lost his right hand in an accident at the plant on the night of July 4.
Two community fundraisers have been planned, and many employees have personally donated money to assist the family. Parent company AMCOL International has also sent money to cover the first week’s wages for Englert, Plant Manager Steve Wilkerson said, noting that the Wyoming Workers Compensation program does not cover the wages for the first week following an accident.
The first community fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday, July 30, when the Colloid/CETCO employees will host a car wash at the Main Street Car Wash in Lovell, thanks to the generosity of owner Keith Brimhall.
Tickets are also on sale for a Lovell firemen’s rib dinner to be held Friday, Aug. 5, at the Lovell Fire Hall. Times for the two events had not been set by press time, but tickets for the rib dinner may be purchased at the American Colloid office or at the fire hall. Wilkerson said 400 tickets will be sold for the rib dinner.
Englert was injured around 9 p.m. the night of July 4, his right hand and forearm severed in an auger accident at the plant. He was taken initially to North Big Horn Hospital, then flown to Denver Health and Hospital in Denver in the early morning hours of July 5.
It was hoped initially that Trey’s hand could be reattached, but doctors determined that there was too much damage. Wilkerson said surgery was performed on Saturday to surgically repair the arm with skin grafts and the like, and Englert could be home this week.
“I spoke with Holly (Trey’s wife) in Denver,” Wilkerson said Tuesday. “She said Trey is doing OK, though he’s in a lot of pain right now. He could come home on Thursday.”
Follow-up therapy will be performed in Billings, Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson said company officials and plant workers responded immediately following the accident. He said he notified American Colloid Environmental Health and Safety Director for Mining Frank Mickelson of Lovell, as well as AMCOL International Director of Manufacturing Jeff Campbell and AMCOL EHS Director Kelvin Roth, both of whom flew to Wyoming on Tuesday.
“I called them that night and they immediately booked flights and traveled out here Tuesday,” Wilkerson said. “AMCOL is an international company but it’s like a family. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone cares about everyone. Safety is our number-one priority. Kelvin and Jeff wanted to be here with the hands (workers) and offer whatever they could, and be with Trey.”
While Roth and Mickelson worked with officials from the Mine Safety and Health Administration officials and Wyoming mine inspectors, who had arrived Tuesday to investigate the accident, Campbell and Wilkerson flew to Denver Wednesday to see Trey and Holly Englert. AMCOL International CEO Ryan McKendrick also called Trey Wednesday morning, Wilkerson said, to offer the company’s support.
“Trey’s biggest worry was how the three employees that were with him that night were handling the situation – not ‘How am I doing?’ but ‘How are they doing?’,” Wilkerson said.
Meanwhile, plant employees got together and started gathering donations for the family and forming fundraising plans, organizing the upcoming car wash and the rib dinner.
“Trey and Holly will be well taken care of by AMCOL and Workers Compensation, and the employees wanted to help them, too,” Wilkerson said. “The employees have been great. There have been some huge donations. The employees are eager for Trey and Holly to get home so they can see how they can help. They’re a close-knit bunch. They want to do whatever it takes to help them until Trey can return to work.
“With the donations I’ve seen so far, they’ll get by really good until Worker’s Comp kicks in. The people here at the plant have been very generous.”
Wilkerson hopes Englert will return to work at the plant.
“We want him back, and yes, he will be back if that’s what he chooses to do,” Wilkerson said. “He has a job waiting for him.
“I’ve worked for AMCOL for almost 20 years, and I know what AMCOL does to support our employees and they are fantastic. When something like this happens they support our employees and there will be more to come – whatever Holly and Tracey need.”
With healing and rehabilitation ahead of him, Englert will receive plenty of support from the company and his co-workers until he returns to work, Wilkerson said.
By David Peck