UPDATE: The Chattanooga Fire Department has confirmed the disabled veteran has died from his injuries. 


PREVIOUS STORY: A disabled veteran has life-threatening burns from trying to help a friend with yard work on Monday afternoon at a home on Wheeler Avenue.

Army Veteran Mark Kerley is now at the Vanderbilt Burn Unit.

Johnny Patmon, Kerley's friend, says he and Kerley were trying to get rid of a stump in his backyard.

Kerley used a mixture of gasoline and oil to burn it down.

Everything looked to be under control, according to Patmon, but then he suddenly heard a loud explosion.

"I was standing on this side and he was on the opposite side," Pattmon said. "Then I heard a large explosion and the next thing I saw he was engulfed in flames,” Patmon said.

The flammable chemicals exploded inside the can, blowing Kerley backwards and burning him badly.

The explosion was so loud, Patmon's neighbor JoMichael Porch heard everything.

"And on my way back out, I hear a BOOM! And it was real loud,” Porch said.

Fire Marshall William Matlock says this isn't the first time crews have responded to this type of incident.

"Unfortunately, when circumstances like this happen, we have to use them as an educational opportunity. So again, think about what you are doing,” Matlock said.

Matlock urges people to pay attention to what chemicals they use.

"Obviously, you never want to put a combustible liquid on an open flame. The fumes alone could cause an explosion. So, we definitely want to discourage everyone from using combustible liquids to start a fire, accelerate it, or continue it,” Matlock said.

Patmon says Kerley is the kind of person who would do anything for anyone.

"He's a really good friend of mine and a really great neighbor to have,” Patmon said.

Patmon hopes his friend will survive this tragic accident.

"As of right now, of this point and time from what I have heard, he is certainly going to need prayer and hope, trust and pray everyone else will be praying for him as well,” Patmon said.

Matlock also says when it comes to removing a stump, tree, or any form of waste, never hesitate to call a professional to help.

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ORIGINAL STORY: A local Army veteran was seriously burned on Monday while trying to help his neighbor burn a tree stump.

It happened behind a home in the 3000 block of Wheeler Avenue around 1:45 p.m.

Chattanooga Fire Department spokesperson Lindsey Rogers says the 57-year-old veteran was using a mixture of gasoline and oil to burn the stump.

Rogers says the veteran’s neighbor heard an explosion and found the victim in the backyard.

Rogers says the neighbor pulled off the veteran’s burning clothes to minimize the injuries and called 911.

Rogers says the veteran’s entire body was burned by the blow back of the explosion and his wounds are being described as life threatening.

The victim has been airlifted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

No names have been released at this time.

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