Local coach back home between treatments following burn accident

Local

A Johnson City soccer coach, injured last month in a campfire accident, is back home between treatments.

Michael Smelser is the soccer coach at Liberty Bell Middle School.

He suffered third-degree burns in a campfire accident and is undergoing treatment at a burn center in Augusta, Georgia.

“We got home today (Wednesday),” Smelser said. “I was discharged this morning. I do have to go back Tuesday which we are hoping, that when I go back Tuesday, that’s when we hope they’ll do the grafting.”

Smelser said the doctors will take skin from his back to graft onto his legs, which suffered second- and third-degree burns.

Smelser said that he has lit and been around camp and bonfires ever since he started going camping at age 11 or 12.

Of the incident, Smelser told News Channel 11 he was clearing brush and started a small bonfire along a riverbank, as he had done in the past. He said he got a jug of kerosene, about a fourth-full, to sprinkle on the fire. 

“Next thing I know, there’s fire inside the jug,” Smelser said. “Then it totally blew up on me.”

Smelser said he’s been told to stay inside as much as possible for now.

“I had all these high hopes of coming home and seeing my kids play their games tonight and my doctor was like, ‘um, no. You’re staying inside.’ There’s just too much risk of infection with open wounds and even the pollen.”

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