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Man Hurt in Traffic Accident Burned in Operating Table Fire

June 12, 1987

CHICO, Calif. (AP) _ A man undergoing surgery for injuries suffered in an auto accident was seriously burned when a fire broke out on the operating table, officials said.

Bill Bittle, 21, of Clear Lake, suffered burns between his thighs from his knees to his buttocks, said Bernie Hiepetas, assistant administrator at Enloe Hospital.

Bittle was in critical condition today, a hospital spokesman said. He was described Thursday as being in critical and unstable condition with a blood clot on the brain from the crash.

Bittle had been undergoing abdominal surgery early Thursday for injuries from the single-car accident Wednesday night when the blaze broke out, Hietpas said.

A hose on an oxygen bottle came loose as an electrical cauterizing tool was being used to seal blood vessels, and in the oxygen-rich air, a spark from the tool ignited the operating table linen, Hietpas said.

The fire was extinguished and the operation completed, he said.

A computer-enhanced X-ray scan of Bittle’s head revealed a skull fracture and the blood clot, which were not related to the fire, said Hietpas.

Fire Marshal Larry Agee and Hietpas said they did not know how the oxygen hose became detached. Agee said the fire was not under investigation, but he would talk with the hospital about safety procedures.

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