Lincoln school officials replace table saw in wake of student accident

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LINCOLN — On Friday, school officials replaced the table saw at which a Mattanawcook Academy student accidentally severed a finger last month, Regional School Unit 67 Superintendent Keith Laser said.

Cameron Fournier’s finger was surgically re-attached at a Boston hospital.

Technology education teacher Thomas Vicaire purchased what Laser described as a SawStop table saw on Thursday. It was delivered to the school at noon. Vicaire, Mattanawcook Academy Principal Henry Pietras and Laser selected the model, according to Laser.

“This is a state-of-the-art saw with all the latest safety guards in place,” Laser said Friday.

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SawStop is a privately-held manufacturer of saws based in Oregon that has about 430 distributors nationwide. The company has sold about 65,000 units since it was founded 10 years ago, according to Matt Howard, the company’s vice president of marketing.

The product is unique, Howard said, in that it automatically stops its blade when the blade touches human skin. The blade carries a small electrical signal. When skin contacts the blade, the signal changes because the human body is conductive, and the safety system stops the blade in less than 5 milliseconds.

The company has sold 20 to 40 percent of its saws to educational institutions over the last 10 years, Howard said.

Lincoln resident Al Fournier said he was “very pleased” by the new purchase. He said that his 16-year-old son, Cameron Fournier, continues to recuperate from about eight hours of surgery performed at Boston Children’s Hospital within hours of the Nov. 18 accident.

“It is unfortunate they hadn’t had it before. I am glad they didn’t discontinue the class,” Al Fournier said Friday. “And we actually have saws like that up here (at his workplace at an oil pipeline maintenance facility in Alaska) because of incidents we have had in the past.”

The sophomore also lost the tip of his left pinky finger and suffered nerve damage to his left thumb in the accident, which occurred in a woodworking class of 14 students. Doctors are hopeful that the nerve damage will heal but said Cameron Fournier might suffer some numbness in his thumb.

“He has good days and bad days,” Al Fournier said of his son. “Today he had a piercing pain in his pinky that was very painful, and his ring finger is acting up on him. It is just going to be a long row for him to hoe, but he has the mindset and the determination to do the physical therapy and recover.”

Cameron Fournier said the accident occurred so quickly that his classmates told him what happened before he knew it. He has said that he was pushing a piece of wood that had gotten caught between the blade guard and blade of the old saw, which was the only table saw in the classroom, when his finger hit the blade.

Vicaire, who was nearby, immediately grabbed a bunch of paper towels and wrapped them around the severed finger. He went to the classroom telephone and told main office personnel to call 911 and then wrapped more paper towels around Fournier’s hand, Fournier has said.

The accident occurred about 11 a.m. A LifeFlight helicopter flew Fournier to the Boston hospital, and he was in surgery by 6 p.m., officials have said.

Laser has praised Vicaire and other school staff for their swift and correct handling of the accident. The new purchase, Laser said, is not a reflection on the safety standard maintained in the classroom, but rather a desire to upgrade the equipment to prevent such accidents in the future.

“There is later technology that is safer that we decided to invest in,” Laser said.

None of the school’s staff, which has experience dating back 30 years, has been able to recall a similar accident occurring at the school previously, Laser has said.

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