Survivor of Building Explosion, Collapse Prepares to Go Home

When you meet Carl Malinowski, he wants you to know one thing right up front: you’re meeting one of the luckiest men in the world.

“All I know is that there were a lot of people looking to take care of me and help me out,” he says. “I know a lot of people risked their lives to save me---an ironworker!”

Malinowski was trapped with one of his co-workers when an explosion ripped through a water treatment facility on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side Aug. 30. While the first man was freed after about 20 minutes, his situation was more dire. Malinowski had been buried under tons of concrete and twisted steel. And while he now has no recollection of the accident, he says a co-worker told him that he was conscious and talking in the immediate aftermath of the blast.

“I was yelling up, ‘You’ve got to get me out of here, my legs are trapped, I’m bleeding, I’m bleeding bad,’” he says. “Apparently I was awake and speaking the whole time, but I don’t recall any of it.”

And at first, he says, the options for rescuers were grim.

“They had a conference call with surgeons from the University of Chicago,” he recalled. “Because if they had to cut my leg off, they were right there to tell them how to do it.”

But Chicago firefighters had a better solution. They dug their way to Malinowski---six feet down---then 40 feet into the rubble.

And they literally plucked him to freedom.

“That’s amazing, that’s truly amazing that was even able to happen,” he exclaims. “I had the opportunity to get saved from an accident I shouldn’t have even made it out alive, just from the explosion alone!”

Sitting on his bed at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, Malinowski heaped praise on those who had helped him since the accident.

“One bad thing happened to me, and it was blowing up,” he said. “Other than that, I’ve gotten nothing but positive thoughts and positive actions, from everyone I’ve encountered. I’ve not met a bad person since the accident!”

That includes the doctors and nurses at University of Chicago Hospital, where Malinowski arrived by helicopter with 18 different fractures. And the Ryan rehab specialists, who are helping him to walk again.

“They’re working me just enough to make me hurt a little bit,” he laughed. “But they’re making me hurt in a good way.”

He has a long road ahead. A ramp has been constructed to help with entry to his home, and there’s a GoFundMe page to help with the bills. But Malinowski said he wanted most of all, to thank the dozens who had taken part in his rescue, and recovery.

“I know I have a second chance and I want to make the best of it,” he said. “I couldn’t be more grateful that these people risked their lives---for me!”

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