Mike Wilks is lucky to be alive. The special effects technician on Audience Network’s Mr. Mercedes was nearly electrocuted March 2 on the show’s set in South Carolina and remains hospitalized after having four toes amputated and undergoing multiple surgeries to repair his hands and what’s left of his feet. The accident is being investigated by OSHA.
A source tells Deadline that Wilks was working in man-made rain when the Condor lift he was operating got too close to power lines, which arced and sent two bolts of electricity coursing through the machine and into his hands and out his feet.
“I was involved in a serious electrocution by power line,” he posted on Facebook – apparently with some assistance, considering the severity of the injuries to his hands. “The electricity ran through my fingers, through my body and exiting out my toes. To say I was lucky is an understatement.”
Wilks says he owes his life to the bravery and quick thinking of three fellow crewmembers who risked their own lives to come to his rescue. “I was rag-dolled into a ditch by the second blast,” he posted. “Three crewmembers selflessly jumped into the still-charged ditch water and pulled me out. I credit them for saving my life. Jeremy Ralstin, Vinny Lotito and James Thomas – thank you for allowing me to get back to my family. Thank you for saving me.” Wilks has a wife and three daughters.
The blasts of electricity were so powerful that they welded his wedding ring to the bone of his finger. “I have a big hole in my right wrist from an exit and reentry, backs of both hands have third degree burns, wedding ring was seared to the bone and had to be cut off, both feet have third degree burns from halfway up my feet to the toes,” he posted. “Four toes suffered 4th degree burns due to the exit of the electricity. I suffered a torn groin muscle, bit through the sides of my tongue and have numerous bruises because I was rag-dolled into a ditch by the second blast.
“I’ve had three surgeries so far trying to save some toes,” he posted from bed at the burn center of Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Ga., in the first week after the accident. “At present, I’ve lost three on my right foot and one on my left. There are many more surgeries to go before they actually are able to do a graft from me. It’s all cadaver skin right now. Same as my right wrist. They dug out a huge hole of dead cells and have it covered for now, waiting till there’s enough new cells to cover with a graft from me. The doctors and staff in this Augusta hospital have been great in healing me, feeding me and just plain listening to my aches and pains. They are my current heroes.”
Wilks underwent more surgery Tuesday. “Mike has just gone into the operating room for his 4th surgery since arriving here,” his wife Dawn posted yesterday. “Today they will evaluate his hands/wrist that have been in healing bandages for a week and tweak his feet where the four toes were amputated. II If he has had enough healing, then today he potentially could do skin grafts. We’ve been told skin grafts are more painful than the burns he’s suffered (which is crazy!!) They won’t know if grafts are possible today until they get into surgery.”
Sonar Entertainment, the show’s producer, told Deadline: “We continue to monitor and support Mike’s recovery. The safety of our cast and crew is our top priority. We are actively assisting OSHA in their review of the incident and we are ensuring Mike and any impacted crewmembers have access to all available resources.”
Created by David E. Kelley, the crime drama for AT&T Audience Network is based on the Stephen King novel and stars Brendan Gleeson and Harry Treadway. Audience announced in November that it had renewed the series for a 10-episode third season.
Wilks’ wife, who declined comment, has set up a Go Fund Me page to “help with medical and personal bills while he recovers.” So far, she’s raised $24,335 of her $30,000 goal.
Friends, donors and well-wishers left comments like these on the page:
“Mike has always been one of my favorite people to work with on set – we go back a long way and I am sending love and prayers to him and his family.”
“A true gem in the film community. Prayers of love and support for he and his beautiful family.”
“You selflessly donated your time & talent many moons ago to the short film Untimely. I’ve never been able to pay you back…and this doesn’t count. Strength to the entire Wilks Clan. We are all pulling for you.”
“Mike helped me start my career in the film industry and we worked together for years. He’s been a blessing in my life and I know many others who would say the same. We are with you, Mike!”
“Mike is my friend a co-worker and my Union Brother. He’s always gladly pitched in when others needed help, so happy to help him when he can use a hand!”