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'Sheer panic:' Widow grieves after husband caught on fire at hospital

Bobby Ray and Kathy Stark
Posted at 9:52 PM, Nov 30, 2022

A wife witnessed an unimaginable tragedy on Thanksgiving evening. As doctors worked to save her husband's life, he caught on fire at the hospital.

Kathy and Bobby Ray Stark were married for nearly 35 years, and they lived in Cumberland City. For the last seven years, she took care of him after he had multiple strokes and was bedridden.

Bobby Ray and Kathy Stark
Bobby Ray and Kathy Stark

Recently, Bobby Ray took a turn for the worse and needed to go to the hospital. After being transported to multiple places, he eventually ended up at TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville.

Then on Thanksgiving night, Kathy said his heart stopped. When doctors went to shock him, something terrible happened.

"When the oxygen exploded, I just went to pieces," she said.

She believes a spark from the defibrillator somehow caught the oxygen on fire.

"They were all over that room there were like 10 to 12 people. It just blew, and they started patting him down. I saw his hand, and it was on fire,” Stark said. “I was saying ‘put him out.’"

Bobby Ray was taken to the burn unit at TriStar Skyline Medical Center where he died.

"Sheer panic," Stark said.

Centennial issued a statement expressing their condolences.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to this family for the loss of their loved one. While we cannot discuss specifics, we are reviewing the care provided to the patient and the functionality of equipment," Centennial officials said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Bobby Ray's daughter, Joyce Feakes, wants a more detailed explanation.

"They were telling her that there was a faulty wire in one of the pads, which caused a spark, which caused his oxygen to explode," Feakes said.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened. Last year in Houston, Texas, a patient was in cardiac arrest when a fire broke out while a defibrillator was being used at HCA Houston Healthcare Kingwood. Eventually, that patient died too.

Then in 2019 at San Antonio Methodist Hospital, investigators said a defibrillator ignited the oxygen in a room causing a body to catch on fire. The police report said the oxygen was left on accidentally.

Moving forward, Feakes and Stark want safety precautions and education measures to be put in place.

"Yes, I would because I don’t want this to happen to anybody else," Stark said.

Kathy relied on her husband's social security. To help her during this time go here.

This story was originally publishedby WTVF in Nashville, Tennessee.