LA: Hunter burns himself while hunting
February 23, 2010
'Gator Man' in burn unit after marsh fire
HOUMA - The biggest worry Easton DeHart's loved ones had was that he
would be hurt by one of the alligators he trapped in driveways and on lawns
as a service to the public.
But it was a mishap during a rabbit hunt in a remote marsh that has left
the 76-year-old "Gator Man" clinging to life in a Baton Rouge burn unit.
According to accounts from family members and friends, DeHart's ordeal
began a bout 2 p.m. Thursday, shortly after he and some companions arrived
at his hunting and fishing camp near Bayou Penchant in a marshy area of
western Terrebonne called Little Carencro.
McCutchen said he, DeHart and Dupre set out on the marsh buggy and began
lighting fires, which hunters use to burn tall grass and flush out prey.
"It was the first time we set the fires with the marsh buggy, and what I
think went wrong is it enabled us to set such a big fire in such a short
time," McCutchen said. "We made a big circle, and just as soon as we got
finished, he made a turn inside the fire rather than going outside the fire.
The choices were to drive through the advancing fire or try to cross the
muddy bayou. They opted for the latter, but "we got stuck," McCutchen said.
The men tried to dislodge the marsh buggy to no avail.
"I went in waist deep," McCutchen said. Dupre tried to get across, and
DeHart got stuck in the mud right behind McCutchen.
DeHart had left his jacket on the marsh buggy. Stuck face up, he was
unable to cover himself, and the other two men couldn't help, McCutchen
'My face is burning'
As the fire rolled over them, McCutchen said he could hear DeHart - not
in a shout or with a cry but in a matter-of-fact fashion - describe the
heat's progress on his body.
"He said 'Oh, my, my head is burning,' and then he said 'Oh, my face is
burning.' . It didn't stay on top of us more than a minute."
Free of the fire's heat, McCutchen said he tried to move and help.
DeHart was badly burned on his face and head, but his first concern was
for his hunting companions, McCuthen said. "He wanted to know if I was OK."
DeHart "never once complained about the burning," McCutchen said, and
apologized to the boys for having to cut the hunt short.
Family members were told that DeHart's prior heart problems - he's had
triple-bypass surgery - could cause life-threatening complications.
Doctors put him in a medicated coma so the pain of the burns won't strain
his heart. His face is covered by bandages. His eyes weren't burned,
indicating he was able to protect them from the flames, Samanie said.
This is the first time something ever happened to him out there, except
once when he shot the tip of a finger off," Dita DeHart said.
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