News 12 at 11 o'clock, February 8, 2008
AUGUSTA, Ga -- 20 victims hospitalized here in Augusta, with them come an untold number of family members and loved ones for their severely burned sons, husbands, and fathers. Some are trying to stay positive, others say are struggling in the wake of this tragedy and asking why.
40-year-old Kelly Fields got married just two months ago, now he's one of the 19 burn victims in the fight of their lives at the Joseph Still Burn Center.
"I would encourage everybody out there to keep praying." Glenn Burnsed is Fields' brother-in-law. He and his family were at home just two miles from the refinery when they heard the explosion and immediately thought of Kelly. "It was a big boom. It shook the walls. They knew something was wrong."
With the refinery on fire, rescue crews rushing to the scene, Kelly's family says he too was rushing back inside the burning building trying to help save his coworkers.
"We do have one source who says Kelly wasn't involved in the initial blast and went back in the building and sustained his injuries. Other people dragging people out of buildings.Just a lot of hero stories and a lot of people immediately banding together."
Also coming together to help, the Augusta community. Local restaurants and the people of the Garden City bringing food, even home cooked meals, drinks and dessert to the hospital for the families.
Bart Grey oversees the volunteer efforts at Doctor's Hospital, which houses the burn center. "The outpouring of the community, their spirit has just been remarkable. It's just working together, the general good spirit of the community is coming together."
One more badly burned victim is at MCG waiting for a bed to open up at the burn center where right now, 16 people are still in critical condition, three more are in serious conditions. The families say they are looking to each other for support.
Burnsed, "I think everybody is forming a family up here, in the waiting rooms, it's profound. Families just bending over backwards, encouraging one another."
Kelly Fields is one of those in critical condition, he's burned on 70 percent of his body, on a ventilator and still not able to speak. But, he has a fighting chance, and for that his family is truly grateful. "Thanks for the risk you took, the service, the diligence, just going the extra mile. It was evident at the sugar refinery and the hospitals. Thank you for your prayers and please, keep on praying."
The 20 victims getting treatment in Augusta range in age from 18 to their mid 50's; most with 3rd degree burns on 30 to 95 percent of their bodies.
Doctors at the burn center say the worst for these victims is still yet to come as they recover.