Escaping a Fiery, Gasoline Fueled Death Trap
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CBN.com -Michiael Cross had been a gas delivery truck driver for eight years and had a spotless record. When delivering fuel, he was always careful to do his safety routine. “I did a tire check and I usually do a pretty thorough one, especially in the summertime,” Michiael remembers.
It was July 4th, so his fiancée Janet rode with him. The couple had met at work and had moved in together. “She didn’t have any obligations in the office, and we just wanted to spend the day together.”
As they traveled through the hills of northern California, two tires blew, throwing the rig into the shoulder. “There was an embankment there. The shoulder on the other side of the road dropped down 20, 25 feet and we actually rolled down that, facing the direction that we traveled.”
The tank cracked open throwing gasoline everywhere. Finally the truck landed on its passenger side. “I immediately told Janet, ‘We have to get out of here and we have to get out of here now!’”
The wreck had ignited the dry grass, and the flames were racing toward the truck. “I had my thumper I thump tires with, and I smacked the windows with that and got them broke pretty good and then I kicked them out. I actually climbed out above her. She lagged behind a little bit and I said, ‘We gotta go. We gotta go.’” They got out of the truck’s cab but then the tanker exploded. Michiael and Janet were caught on fire and were in a fight for their lives. Both air and hope were fading fast.
Amazingly, help was just minutes away. A fire truck had been traveling behind them. A forestry helicopter that just happened to be in the area saw the wreck. They sprang into action. Firemen could not go into the raging fire to save them, so Michiael and Janet had to run through the flames to safety.
Unfortunately, they got separated “I lost track of where Janet was. The fireman told me they could hear us yelling and calling for each other in the fire,” Michiael remembers. “Somehow I ran out of the fire before she did, and all I could think of is ‘Where is Janet?’” When Janet emerged from the fire she was severely burned. Once the couple was safe, EMTs poured saline water on their burns.
About a mile away, a family out enjoying a holiday picnic saw the smoke in the distance. “It was quite a lot of smoke and it was close to the lake where we were headed and I just grabbed my husband-at-the-time’s hand and said, ‘Oh, maybe we should pray for those people,’” Christa Cole remembers.
Michiael and Janet were airlifted to the UC Davis Burn Center in Sacramento. They suffered 3rd and 4th degree burns. Janet suffered burns on over 60% of her body; Michiael 50%.
R.N. Debra Jones was working in the burn center that day. “The part I remember is after they arrived they both had extremely serious injuries.”
Dr. David Greenhalgh treated them at the hospital. “They both needed extensive skin grafts to cover the burned areas. Janet actually had to have some amputations of fingers because they weren’t alive after awhile.”
When Christa and her family returned home, she got a call from her sister. “She said, ‘Mom and Mike have been in a terrible accident. They’ve been burned.’ She started going into detail about it and basically telling us to come down and say goodbye; that they probably weren’t going to make it. My greatest fear was not being able to say goodbye if that were true, and for my kids not to know their grandparents.”
But, when Christa learned the details of the accident, she realized the shocking truth about who they prayed for. “When I found out it was at the lake, just at the end, ahead of us, that’s when I put two and two together and remembered, ‘Oh my gosh, that was them.’”
Hospital staff worked around the clock to save their lives. Michiael stayed in a coma for 25 days. When he woke up, he couldn’t wait to see Janet. “When I got to the point where I can walk some distance, I would walk by her room and I would try to sneak peeks to see her because obviously I missed her,” Michiael recalls.
Janet was asleep for two months, before she woke up to the horrifying truth. “I knew at that point my face had been burned, but I didn’t want to see it,” Janet said. “I didn’t want to look; and when I finally said I was ready, and I looked in the mirror, I realized, ‘No, I’m not ready. This is shocking.’”
Even as they came to grips that their lives would never be the same, the love between them remained strong. They married on the hospital grounds, just prior to Janet’s release. “We decided we didn’t want to go home and live together. If we were going to live together, we were going to be man and wife,” Janet recollects.
“I spent the wedding night, the first night, beside her. It was the first time I got to spend a night even in the same room with her in four months. So just, I mean, it doesn’t sound like much of a honeymoon, but to be in the same room was plenty,” Michiael said.
After their release, Janet endured numerous plastic surgeries “We had a lot of physical therapy. And because of our skin grafting, your skin would tend to contract, and they would have to stretch it.”
Then depression set in. They could not stay outside for long, especially in warmer weather, and they lived in isolation. Michiael recalls those tough times. “Now, I had nothing to strive for and despair, really, really bad despair set in. And I started drinking a lot (and doing) some drugs; marijuana, stuff like that. And then that only goes so far and Janet and I – it was breaking us.”
So they made a decision ... To live again. “We’ve got to get out of this house and we’ve got to find a reason (to live). We’ve got to do something. In 2007, we set out on a journey to go across the United States,” Michiael said.
They visited Janet’s daughter in Montana, who took them to a prayer meeting at her church. Michiael describes the feelings. “Just to walk into the building was like walking in the atmosphere of heaven. I remember literally taking a breath and realizing, ‘Oh my God, You’re here. You’re here.’ I have felt this before. When I was a teenager and I received the Holy Spirit, I remember that feeling of God being in me; and I found Him again,”
“I remember glancing up at him and thinking it was the most normal thing in the world. This is normal, even though we’d never done that before. This is where we’re supposed to be,” Janet remembers.
When they returned to California, they joined a local church and began learning more about God. “I gave myself. I gave everything, everything about me. I didn’t worry about me having a purpose or who I was. I turned my life over to Him 100%,” Michiael said.
“We just continued to learn more and more about God, what He’s really like. My Father does love me, and I don’t know why, but He does. He said He does,” Janet added.
It took determination not only to live, but also to live well. Today, Michiael and Janet are leading happy, productive lives. “I never knew God could be so great. I grew up in a Christian home and I raised my girls in a Christian home, but I never really knew God and His heart until recently,” Janet said.
Michiael adds “His love’s so true that I may not know 10 minutes from now if I’ll be breathing or not, but I know He’ll be loving me, period.”
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