Vt. Man Injured Clearing Storm Debris in ‘Freak Accident'

D.J. Leach, a road foreman in Fairfax, required a spinal fusion surgery, his family said Wednesday

A man from Vermont’s Franklin County underwent an emergency surgery that stretched from late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, following what fellow Fairfax town employees called a "freak accident" on the job.

D.J. Leach, 61, was a part of the massive cleanup effort still ongoing across Vermont, following Monday morning’s violent wind storm that knocked down trees and power poles in many communities.

A lifelong resident of Fairfax, and town employee for more than 30 years, the highway department foreman was part of a team clearing toppled trees Monday that were blocking a busy part of Fletcher Road.

While Leach was cutting and removing trees, somehow, one snapped and hit him.

A fellow highway department worker is an EMT and tended to Leach right away.

Leach’s son Jay said his dad suffered brain swelling, a broken sternum and ribs, and early Wednesday morning, got out of a spinal fusion surgery at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.

Leach said his happy-go-lucky father had limited feeling in his legs, but was hopeful that’ll improve.

"We wish him the best," said Amy Sears, the manager of Fairfax’s utility department.

Sears and Fairfax Select Board member Randy DeVine said everyone in Fairfax is pulling for this well-known, outgoing fixture in town.

They described him as the kind of guy who wakes up and can’t wait to get to work and help people.

"We respect his dedication in this town," DeVine said. "Our thoughts and prayers are [with him] every minute of the day–it’s devastating."

As communities across Vermont and New England continue clearing fallen trees, power poles, and other damage from those intense blasts of wind, Sears had a message from the community of Fairfax.

"Be safe—to any of the road crews out there, the power crews out there,"Sears said. "There’s still lots of clean up in lots of towns."

Jay Leach said he knows his dad has a long road ahead of him, including a probably lengthy stay at a post-surgical care center for physical rehab.

However, Jay Leach said his family is optimistic that D.J.’s enthusiasm for life and support from the Fairfax community will help get him through this. 

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