New Hampshire man recalls Taiwan fire: It was instantaneous
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire man recovering at home from serious burns suffered in a water park explosion in Taiwan says support from his family and friends have kept him going as he thinks about that June day the flammable powder blew up over a stage.
“It was so instantaneous,” Alex Haas said Tuesday. “It was just like flipping a light switch. You could see outlines of people in the fire, but it was, ‘Run as fast you can. Get out.’ That’s what I did.”
Haas, 27, said a group called Color Play Asia had rented out part of the park for a party on June 27 and he was standing in an empty swimming pool near the stage at the time the powder was released.
“It’s just filled with all the dust,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Mont Vernon. “Every time you take a step, you pick dust up and it gets on fire. So it just kept burning and burning.”
Media in Taiwan have reported that 11 people died and more than 500 were injured.
Haas, who had been teaching in Taipei, suffered burns on about 90 percent of his body. He managed to get to a hospital fairly quickly. “I had a little trouble with the (tracheotomy) tube going in, but they got it in, they kept me alive, they did a damn fine job doing that.”
Haas said he was sedated for more than a week, and prospects were grim at first. When his family got there, hospital staff asked if they wanted a lock of his hair.
“They kept being very persistent. But my parents, they are the kind of people, they said: ‘What are you talking about? His hair’s going to grow back.’ ... They knew I was going to pull through.”
Roger Haas, Alex’s father, said doctors told the family his hair actually helped protect him.
“He had a big, bushy head of hair, and a big, bushy beard ... what happened is the powder adhered to his hair and burned off, away from his head and face. That’s basically what saved his face from getting burned.”
Roger Haas said the worst wounds are to Alex’s limbs and torso. He’s in charge of applying ointment and changing bandages. It’s a lot better than the full-body bandage he was in just a few months ago.
“My knees used to be black, like the night sky,” Alex Haas said. “Now they’re dark red, you can tell they’re healing. I’m going to work really hard on keeping up the pace.”
The next step is getting Alex medical insurance and setting up appointments for physical therapy.
During those long days in the hospital, the family befriended others who were going through the same experience.
“We still feel very strongly for all those that are still suffering through this and count our blessings with Alex’s great recovery,” Roger Haas said.
Right the now, the focus is on his recovery, but Alex hopes to return to Taiwan someday.
“It’s such a beautiful place,” he said. “The country is just wonderful and I would love to see all my students again at school.”