Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy Nathan White, who was burned while assisting a motorist whose vehicle had broken down on Highway 93 last week, reports he is home and “healing remarkably well,” and his renowned sense of humor is intact.
According to White, he had stopped about 6 p.m. to help a motorist who was priming his carburetor to get his engine started in an old pickup. White was pouring a few drops of gasoline in when the engine was revved, and burning fuel exploded.
“I looked down and realized I was on fire. I rolled and rolled, but it seemed like it wasn’t going out. I ran toward a woman who had a fire extinguisher, but was out by the time I reached her,” White says. “I looked down and saw skin hanging off of my hand and arm.” The deputy went quickly to his vehicle to call for an ambulance, “before the endorphins wore off and the pain started.” He credits his sunglasses with saving his eyes.
White was transported to St. Luke’s Hospital in Polson and flown to Harbor View Hospital in Seattle on the A.L.E.R.T. II Air Ambulance out of Kalispell. Immediately, he was cracking jokes with the staff, saying he “had a burning desire to come visit you. But I feel like a flaming idiot for being here.”
He was treated for second- and third-degree burns on both side of his face, the back of his left hand, and his upper left arm, estimated at 4% of his body. He was released less than 24 hours later into the capable hands of his wife, Tori, whose medical skills impressed the hospital enough that they “felt comfortable” sending them home. They will send photos in for the burn clinic to assess, but White says he is healing well enough he probably will not have to return.
“I received awesome, professional treatment at the E.R. at St. Luke’s, on the flight, and at Harbor View,” White says. “And the outpouring of support has been overwhelming.” He says he has received visits, flowers, donations, and offers of help from coworkers and civilians throughout the community. Sheriff Don Bell deserves special thanks, he says, for sticking with him from the outset and making sure every need is met. “He never left my side until the plane took off.”
It’s ironic, White says, that in 30 years with the Austin Fire Department he was never burned, but now, as a law enforcement officer, he was. But ask him how he is, and he says, “Medium rare.”