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February 5, 2003

Worth County-- Did you know static electricity can be deadly? It can spark and cause an explosion if you're around gas fumes.

One South Georgia boy ended up with second and third degree burns because he simply moved a gas can. He says he's lucky to be alive.

We've all experienced static electricity. It's the shock you get when you touch something metal. Think about what that feels like and imagine the same charge hitting gas fumes. The mixture is dangerous and can be deadly. A thirteen year old boy was severely burned after moving a gas can, static electricity is to blame.

Michael Spires was playing basketball outside his Worth County home. On January 7th, the young Spires moved a gas can from a truck. “I got it, and then I began to rub my leg, then the gas can exploded,” Michael said.

The Spires blame the explosion on static electricity. “The gas can was sitting on tailgate of truck. I didn't want to knock it over, I guess built up static electricity, and then it blowed up.”

“Static electricity charge runs about a thousand volts,” says Norman Park Fire Chief Ken Weaver. “Depending on the clothes you have on, and such.”

A pile of ashes is what's left of Michael's fleece shirt. So you could imagine how burned he was. “His leg was raw all the way up, face was raw, hands.” Michael's father Oscar Spires. The former Norman Park Police Chief, didn't recognize his own son. “When I got to hospital I saw him, and he was a mess,” Oscar said.

And so are the hospital bills. “We got caught without insurance on him. The application came in week after he got burnt.”

Only three weeks and a couple surgeries later, Michael is able to walk and slightly move his hand and his face is barely scarred. “I know life ain't no joke and not to mess with gas,” Michael said.

Michael is recovering quickly, but it will be about a year before he gets back to where he originally was before the explosion.

What can you do at the pumps to stay safe?

  • Set gas cans on the ground
  • Don't get back into car while pumping
  • Don't leave car running
  • Don't have cell phones, pagers and anything else electronic on

We found a couple gas stations with warning labels posted, but most people don't even read the signs. Norman Park Fire Chief, Ken Weaver, who also works in the propane business, says people need to pay attention and be aware of static electricity around gas fumes.

Michael Spires, has major hospital bills to pay, so the family is accepting donations. There's an account in his name set up at Southwest Georgia Bank in Moultrie, Georgia.

posted at 5:30PM by dave.miller@walb.com