Worker injured in electrical accident suffered severe burns, lost toe; in good spirits while recovering

Harry Klausen

Harry Klausen woke up twice on the morning of July 25: first in his bed before heading to work; then in an ambulance.

“I woke up and was like, ‘What am I doing here? I’ve got to get back to work,'” Klausen said.

Thousands of volts is what happened, Klausen said. The electricity traveled from a power source into his right hand, all through his body and completed the circuit by exiting through his left foot.

The cause: A boom truck lifting materials at the HERE Kansas construction site came too close to overhead power lines, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Division Chief James King said in July.

The construction site, where apartments and retail shops are being built, is near the University of Kansas’ Memorial Stadium, just south of 11th Street between Indiana and Mississippi streets.

At the time of the accident Klausen said he was standing on the ground floor making cuts around a window sill.

“My hand was touching the truck,” he said. “The operator got a little bit, but I got the most shocked.”

Klausen, 59, said he was quickly taken to a hospital in Topeka and then transferred to the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., where he has been recovering for about three weeks.

Klausen said he suffered third-degree burns to his body, largely concentrated on his extremities. Doctors also amputated the little toe on his left foot, which was severely damaged in the incident.

“They had to cut part of my foot too,” he added.

Harry Klausen

Despite that, Klausen’s spirits are high. He’s quick to joke and laugh.

“When the nurses came in and said I was getting my staples out I told them, ‘I’m going to chase you all down the hallway, you better watch out,'” he said.

“I can stand the pain, it just takes a long time to heal,” he said.

In 45 years of construction work Klausen said he’s only ever suffered minor injuries.

“That was a long time ago, with a different company,” he said. “Ankle roll, hurt your hand, normal life stuff. This is the first time I got shocked, and it’s crazy.”

Feeling lucky to be alive after the shock, Klausen credited two people with saving his life: his foreman, who resuscitated him with CPR, and his father, who died years ago.

“My dad saved my life; he’s up there, probably told God, ‘Don’t take him, he’s still young,'” he said with a laugh.

Attempts to contact the foreman were unsuccessful.

At the time of the accident Klausen said he was working for Builders Stone and Masonry, of Olathe.

Brandon Becker, the company’s president, said Klausen has worked there for about three years. The company had been on-site for a year working on the building’s exterior.

“He’s pretty fortunate and pretty lucky,” Becker said. “We’re looking forward to him making a full recovery and returning to work.”

Becker said he has visited Klausen several times in the hospital. In addition, the company sent over a basket of treats to enjoy during recovery, Klausen said.

“He’s a good guy and he’s been a good worker,” Becker said.

“I said, ‘Ah boss, that’s nice, that’s nice,'” Klausen said.

On Thursday, Klausen said he took a crack at walking up and down the hospital’s hallway.

“It hurt just a little bit,” he said.

Klausen hopes to leave the hospital by Wednesday, and as soon as he’s ready he’d like to return to work. One step at a time.