Milwaukee man shares story of explosion at CNG fueling station
An explosion at a compressed natural gas pump last month changed their lives forever. Now for the first time, one of the victims is sharing his story.
It started off just like any other time at the pump.
"I've probably filled up there hundreds of times,” Matt Felton told CBS 58 Morning News anchor Jessica Tighe.
Felton and a friend were filling up Felton’s van at a CNG fueling station on Milwaukee’s south side. Then the blast happened.
"Next thing I know, I'm up against the concrete. I see the lower part of my body just mangled and bleeding and part of it seriously bleeding. I had to put my hand in to stop the bleeding," Felton explained.
He lost both of his legs from the knee down, but he survived the explosion.
"I just did what I had to do. I knew I had to save my life,” he said.
Smelling gas yet, Felton said he yelled for help. Strangers came running.
"I started screaming right away and I'm like you have to grab both shoulders and just get me out of here,” he said.
Eventually first responders arrived and rushed Felton to Froedtert Hospital.
One of the doctors on duty that day was Lewis Somberg. He’s a member of the Army Reserve and has experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During a visit to Felton’s hospital room about two weeks after the blast, Dr. Somberg recalled the day Felton arrived in the emergency room.
"When I came back to see you, I got a little flashback because I've done this so much,” he told Felton.
"(Dr. Somberg) told me (my injuries) were very similar to injuries of soldiers in Iraq with the bombs that go off. Very similar because of dirt and debris," Felton said.
More than a dozen surgeries later, Felton is hoping to leave the hospital soon. In the meantime, he’s enjoying the little things in life like getting fresh air.
"Oh this feels so good. It's so nice to be outside,” Felton said as his sister helped him into the hospital's courtyard.
Before the explosion, Felton was training to climb Mount Everest. He was supposed to leave next month. Now he’s perfecting his wheelchair and making new goals.
"I really hope to be one of those people who gets back on my feet and doesn't let things stop me and uses this as something that's actually a good thing," Felton said.
Surrounded by family, Felton’s strength and optimism is impressive. He hopes to one day make hospital visits and inspire others in situations like his.
He also hopes to get prosthetics soon. The estimated cost is $100,000. His family has a GoFundMe campaign underway to help raise money for "Matt's new legs."
Meanwhile, Felton and his family are still waiting to learn the cause of the explosion. The Milwaukee Police Department tells CBS 58 it’s still being investigated.
The city of Milwaukee owns the fueling station near 38th Street and Lincoln Avenue, but it’s open to the public. Anyone with a CNG vehicle can use it, just like Felton was on the day of the blast.
He says community speculation that someone was smoking at the time of the explosion is false.
Felton's friend, who was also hurt, is recovering from a broken leg and burns.