Man warns public about barbecue safety after suffering burns in explosion

John Herrera suffered burns on 20 percent of body last year

MIAMI - John Herrera thought he was checking a broken grill, but instead he was lighting his own backyard bomb.

In February 2014, Herrera's wife had opened their grill's gas line but was unable to light it.

"When she couldn't ignite all five burners, she closed the lid," Herrera said. "Once she closed the lid, she forgot to close the line. She invited me into a bomb."

The blast came when Herrera pressed the grill's regular ignition switch.

"So painful that it's like being in a furnace," Herrera said. "Your entire body at the same time is being hit with 1,200-1,500 degrees."

Dazed after the explosion, Herrera walks around for several minutes. He finally headed to the hospital with second-and third-degree burns to his face, arms and legs. The skin below his knees was gone.

"His burns were close to 20 percent of body surface area," Dr. Carlos Medina, the plastic surgeon who treated Herrera at Kendall Regional Medical Center's burn center, told Local 10 News.

Doctors used synthetic skin as part of a long, painful recovery, that continues 17 months later. Medina calls Herrera's incident a true accident, but believes 80 percent of cases like this can be prevented by taking the proper precautions.

Doctors believe opening the grill before igniting it may have saved Herrera's life. Had he pressed that ignition button earlier that metal lid would have acted like shrapnel.

Herrera does plan to grill this Fourth of July weekend, but offers a reminder about grill safety.

"If it doesn't light, shut it off," Herrera said. "Open it up. Let it aerate. It's in the instructions, it really is."

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