Titan Tire victim says he is still reliving October accident

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 2, 2000

RIDGECREST, La. — It was late last September when Paul Baxter began working at Titan Tire as an employee of M.E. Mason Contracting, mostly for the higher pay.

Little did he know how drastically his life would change just a week later, when he and another worker were severely burned in a flash fire on the job. On his seventh day at Titan, a mixing machine with mechanical problems belched out carbon black dust for the second time that morning — and the dust ignited.

Baxter was working 35 feet away with his back to the machine when what he describes as a &uot;fireball&uot; engulfed him before hitting a wall 100 feet in front of him.

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Much of the hours after that are unclear to Baxter, who was rushed, along with Titan employee Marsalla Robinson, to Natchez Regional Medical Center.

&uot;For one thing, they had me on so much morphine,&uot; Baxter said. &uot;I guess it’s good they did.&uot;

That is because Baxter had second- and third-degree burns over his back, head and arms.

From Natchez Regional, he was sent to a Greenville burn center, where he stayed for two weeks.

The memory of hospital personnel soaking and scraping the burned skin, he said, still gives him chills.

On the surface, Baxter seems to have healed well, in part due to the regular exercises he does to help skin and muscles in the affected area heal properly.

But Baxter, once an avid fisherman and hunter who loved to soak up sun at local lakes, can’t sit in the sun for several minutes before the skin that was burned begins to break out in a rash.

And he still has nightmares about the accident. &uot;I’ve woke up in that fireball many a night,&uot; he said.

Baxter, who receives worker’s compensation payments, said he is ready to get back to work but is unsure about going back to work at Titan.

&uot;After this, I’m scared to go back,&uot;&160;he said.

He would like to go back to Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez, majoring in marketing as he did before the accident — but he has to find a way to support his wife, Kathy, and their two daughters.

Kathy Baxter quit nursing school to care for her husband after the accident and is not currently working.

Baxter wondered aloud where all this leaves him and his family, then answered his own question.

&uot;In the middle somewhere, I&160;guess,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;Just hanging.&uot;