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Health improving for man seriously injured in Weld County oil and gas site blast

Doctors share promising news with family
Posted at 6:10 PM, Jan 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-03 21:08:48-05

WINDSOR, Colo. – The man who sustained serious burns to his hands and face in a December 22 oil and gas site explosion near Windsor showed some major progress on Wednesday.

Houston Pirtle still has a long road to recovery, but his wife sat down with Denver7 and discussed Pirtle’s resilience.

“I'm so thankful that it wasn't worse” Rachel Darrah said through tears, “that I got a phone call from him and not a coroner.”

Darrah explained that on the night of the 22, her husband called her from the back of an ambulance. She said there was no trace of worry in his voice.

“He actually called me and told me that he was headed to the burn unit -- there was an explosion at his work,” she said.

That was the last conversation they shared. He was then admitted into North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley.

“He's been intubated ever since. So, I haven't been able to talk to him,” she said on Wednesday afternoon.

For the last week and-a-half, Darrah has driven from Sterling to Greeley to be with her husband as he recovers.

The couple has two young children, a 1½-year-old and a 3½-year-old. Due to Pirtle’s injuries, there is a high risk of infection and their children have not been able to visit.

Darrah said her husband had only been on the job for a few months as a contractor for Extraction Oil and Gas.

“He got this job and he fell in love from the minute he got hired,” she said.

Surveillance cameras caught the fireball as it shot into the air, the video also recorded the sound of that major explosion.

Windsor-Severance Fire Operation Chief Mike Blackwell said the investigation is on-going. Though he added vapors possibly triggered an emergency shut-off feature on a generator, he said someone may have tried turning the generator back on, igniting the vapors.

“There will be some therapy. Physical therapy, occupational therapy -- just to retrain the new skin that'll grow on his hands,” Darrah said.

She’s aware progress will be slow, but she’s hoping her words will help her husband heal.

While sedated, she’s told him, “The kids miss him, that he's safe, that he's okay, that we're taking care of him and that he'll get through this.”

She spent Christmas and New Year's Eve in the hospital with her husband, away from her kids. She said her only wish is that he would wake up and speak. 

"That is what I’m looking forward to most," she said.

Since the explosion, Darrah has prayed he’d soon wake up and say the same, “They keep hoping. You know, it's tomorrow, it's tomorrow.”

During our interview, the good news broke.

“My husband was extubated! There are no more tubes in his throat! He's awake! Oh my God,” she said through tears.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Darrah said the two finally exchanged, “I love you’s.”

Because she’s a stay-at-home mother, a GoFundMe page was created to help with day-to-day expenses.

To help the family, click here.