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Firefighters Remember Construction Accident

Three firefighters remember vividly the day their lives changed. Firefighters daily respond to reports of possible gas leaks at various locations, and October 31, 2008 began no differently than any other. Everything changed for the three firefighters when a construction worker entered the Hilltop fire station. He had suspected that a gas pipe had been punctured at the construction site he was working on.

When the three firefighters went to investigate, they detected the slightest odor of gas and ordered ever construction worker away from the area. After confirming with a witness that no one was in the building, the firefighters began their inspection. When they were only 6 feet from the front door to the building it exploded. "I knew exactly what was happening," one of the injured firefighters later recalled. "I made a quarter turn away from it, and then I was thrown backward 18 feet."

Two of the firefighters thrown from the explosion were able to leave the hospital after spending only one night there. Their injuries later proved to be extensive as they required months of physical therapy. The third, and lead, firefighter suffered first and second-degree burns. He remained in the hospital for a week where he received several skin grafts during surgery. He underwent four more surgeries in an attempt to regain the use of his badly burned hand. All three of the firefighters required counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder and remained unable to return to work for at least a year.
The firefighters looked back to that fatal day and commented on how lucky everyone was that none of the construction workers were in the building when the explosion occurred. If the construction workers had not reported the gas leak many of them could have been severely injured or killed at the site.

Although the firefighters had short hospital stays, their tragedy highlights how extensive injuries can be. They had to pay high medical bills and lost wages during their yearlong recuperation period. Workers' compensation benefits help employees get through those difficult and emotional times caused by a workplace injury.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch "Ohio firefighters recall surviving explosion" Kathy Lynn Gray 9/9/10

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