A Bay of Plenty truck driver "blew up like a football" after a freak accident where compressed air was forced into his body through his left buttock.
Steven McCormack was standing on the plate between the cab of his truck and semi-trailer at Waiotahi Contractors on Saturday when his foot slipped.
As he fell, he broke the hose off a brass nipple connected to the compressed air reservoir powering the truck’s brakes, and the nipple pierced the flesh of his left buttock.
As the air, compressed to 100 pounds per square inch, rushed into Mr McCormack’s body he said he felt like he was diving and had the bends.
"I felt the air and I felt like it was going to explode from my foot," he said.
"I had no choice but just to lay there, blowing up like a balloon."
Mr McCormack's workmates heard him screaming, said company co-owner Robbie Petersen, and quickly released the air container's safety valve to stop the flow.
The brass nipple remained embedded in Mr McCormack's rear as three of his co-workers - Jason Wenham, Ross Hustler and Petersen - lifted his upper torso on to the truck's plate.
While waiting for emergency services to arrive, Mr Wenham put Mr McCormack on his side in the recovery position, which helped him breathe despite swelling to his head and neck, and one lung filling with fluid.
His workmates also broke into a water cooler to find ice, which they packed around his neck to ease the swelling.
Mr McCormack credits his workmates - Wenham especially - with saving his life, and also thanked emergency services and hospital staff for their actions.
Opotiki's ambulance and the rescue helicopter were busy so an ambulance had to come from Whakatane.
When the ambulance arrived an hour after the accident, ambulance officers and a doctor removed the nipple and rushed McCormack to Whakatane Hospital, where doctors drained the fluid from his lungs and cleared the wound in his buttock.
Mr McCormack says the wound was cleared with something that felt to him like a drill, and that it was “the most painful part”.
Doctors later told him they were surprised the air didn’t break the skin, as it separated fat from muscle.
Mr McCormack said his skin felt "like a pork roast" - crackling on the outside but soft underneath – and was cheerful in Whakatane Hospital's intensive care unit yesterday, saying he felt "lucky to be alive".
The only way for the air to escape was the usual way gas passed from the body, he said.
Petersen said it was a "million-to-one freak accident" and he had notified the Department of Labour.