"I thought I was gone. I said to myself, 'I don't think I'm ready to go,' " James Green of Downey recalled as he looked up from a gurney outside the X-ray room at Good Samaritan Hospital on Wednesday.
He had been welding on the third floor of a high-rise office building under construction at 1000 Wilshire Blvd. when a load of steel beams broke loose from a crane two floors above him.
"I thought the whole building was coming down," the 46-year-old, bearded North Carolina native said in a quiet drawl.
Three workers died in the collapse and six others were hurt. Only two were sent to a hospital.
Of the two who were hospitalized, Green was more fortunate, suffering only cuts. He was driven home by his daughter later in the day.
The other worker, Kenneth McKellar, 27, suffered a fractured back.
"He (McKellar) wanted to talk (to reporters)," said Marion Herman, a Good Samaritan emergency services supervisor, "but the doctor said no."
Green said he was welding on the high-rise's third-floor decking when he heard a thunderous roar. There was hardly time to look up--several steel beams, weighing five tons each, had broken loose from a crane.
"Steel and metal started falling all around," he said.
The beams shot through the deck a scant few feet from where Green had been working.
"They kept on going and took everything with them," said the journeyman welder, who had worked on construction jobs for 23 years without ever being involved in an accident.
As the beams slammed through the third floor, Green said, the deck suddenly buckled toward a gaping hole in the center.
Somehow, Green was hurled toward the western edge of the structure--away from the hole through which the beams had slammed to the building's foundation several floors below.
Instinctively, Green said, he struggled to crawl to the edge of the deck to keep from tumbling to a certain death through the hole.
"It was like the tide sucking you under," he said. "For about 10 seconds, I couldn't get going.
"God saved my life. He protected me," said Green, who had been on the Wilshire Boulevard job for two months.
Green said he was fortunate not only to have been missed by the plummeting steel beams but also that he had finished a welding job on the second floor not long before the accident. The beams tore through a second floor area where he had been welding only about an hour earlier.
As soon as he feels well, Green said, he'll be back on the job.
"But I don't know if I'm going back to this job," he added.