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He Turned into a Human Fire Ball

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“We didn't anticipate any issues.” Steve Hertz recalled. “It looked like a very normal evening for flying, and we were just looking forward to getting in the air.” Steve and his friend, Don St. Clair had done this hundreds of times before; prepping their gear to enjoy an evening of powered paragliding.

Steve recalls, “I think it was pushing 80 degrees. The winds were light, and it was a beautiful blue sky evening.” Don started to take off first, but when he couldn’t get his wing properly inflated, he had to abort and start over. So, Steve, with his GoPro recording, took off. He circled the field then flew to the rendezvous spot to wait for Don. Steve says, “After 10 minutes of not seeing him in the air, I decided to fly back to the airport and check on him. I saw him inflate the wing and begin to take off.”

Then… something went wrong. Don was too low and heading towards some trees that lined one side of the airfield. Steve recalls, “Normally his machine would have enough power to climb out and straighten out, and this particular evening it didn't.” Don banked hard to the right and avoided the trees. But now the wind was at his back and he was picking up speed -- heading straight toward some power lines. All Steve could do, was watch. He says, “I thought he was dead. I literally watched him turn into a ball of fire and I thought, that's not survivable. It was just the worst feeling I've ever had.”

Immediately, Steve landed at the airfield. He grabbed his phone to call 9-1-1, as he ran across the street to his friend. Steve recalls, “I was praying that he was alive. I really thought I watched a human being die.” But, as he got closer he couldn’t believe what he saw. Don was conscious and appeared to be unhurt. Steve says, “He looked up and talked to me and I thought, ‘Wow, this is a miracle.’”

Incredibly, Don recalls everything that happened. He says, “As soon as I saw I was gonna hit 'em, the only thought that went through my head is I'm dead. When I hit those lines, the whole world turned into a ball of fire. And I was just waiting literally for it all to come to an end 'cause I expected it...any minutes for the lights to go out. And instead I had the feeling of falling. And next thing I knew I was on my back on the ground looking up at the sky. I couldn't believe I was alive to be quite honest. And as I laid there, I said, ‘thank you, God,’ because I knew right away the only way I survived that was divine intervention.”   

Within minutes, paramedics arrived and rushed Don to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. Meanwhile, Steve called Don’s wife, Karen. She recalls, “Steve's like, ‘Oh, Don's gonna be okay but he had a little accident.’ He was very calm, which was very good. I was praying instantly from that point on.”

Karen drove the 30 minutes to the hospital, praying the whole way. When she arrived, she learned Don had second and third degree burns over 25% of his body. She recalls, “Definitely the Holy Spirit was with me 'cause I don't know how I didn't panic or didn't have an anxiety attack.” Don says, “When I finally got to see Karen, first of all, I was elated to still be there. But seeing her and assuring her that I was gonna be okay and that I was gonna make it through it, that just strengthened our bond even greater.”

Now Don would begin the long process of recovery that would start with skin grafts. Karen started texting people to pray for his healing. Two days later when Don went in for skin graft surgery, his doctor discovered something remarkable. Karen recalls, “It looked like the skin was starting to heal itself. They went ahead and covered his burnt skin with pig skin to allow it to heal on his own.” Don says, “In my heart, that wasn't a surprise. Literally hundreds of people sending out prayers to me. And I know that that was part of my healing process.”

Don says those prayers also helped in the painful weeks that followed. He recalls, “I actually had waves of pain that would course through my arms, my legs, and as I, I closed my eyes and just concentrated on what was going on. And the image that came to me was that those waves were hands that were actually caressing those wounds. It was those prayers that were coursing through me, and that set me at ease.”

Just two weeks after the accident, Don’s doctors decided he was well enough to go home. Don recalls, “The surgeon had looked me over and he said, 'you're healing quickly.' I knew it was the prayers doing a good job, but I healed quicker than they expected.”

Don was soon back to his chores on their ranch and six months later, he had made a full recovery. There are few that don’t agree that Don’s survival was a miracle. Especially considering the power lines he hit were carrying 140,000 volts of electricity. He says, “When I hit those lines, the explosion knocked the breath outta me. Had I inhaled that super heated air, it would've seared my lungs. The electricity surrounded me, it should have gone through me. The gas didn't ignite or explode. The battery didn't explode. 50 foot fall should be fatal. I came down motor side first. Had it come down face first, that 85 pound engine would've crushed me. The list of things of why I know I'm blessed and why there was divine intervention is a long list because there's no way I should have survived that.”

Karen recalls, “It definitely strengthened my belief in prayer and realizing how specific you can pray.” Don adds, “Put your troubles into Jesus' hands. You'll get through this life so much better. You'll have a comfort in your soul that is unmatched by anything else.”

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About The Author

Ed Heath

Ed Heath loves telling stories. He has loved stories so since he was a little kid when he would spend weekends at the movies and evenings reading books. So, it’s no wonder Ed ended up in this industry as a storyteller. As a Senior Producer with The 700 Club, Ed says he is blessed to share people’s stories about the incredible things God is doing in their lives and he prays those stories touch other lives along the way. Growing up in a Navy family, Ed developed a passion for traveling so this job fits into that desire quite well. Getting to travel the country, meeting incredible people, and