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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Ash Flat trucker burned in crash

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Staff Writer

An Ash Flat man is in an Augusta, Ga., burn center receiving treatment after a fiery wreck Dec. 29 in South Carolina.

James Titus, 50, was driving a tractor-trailer northbound on Interstate 77 near Columbia, S.C., when a southbound pickup truck crossed the median and collided with Titus's truck, the Associated Press reported.

The pickup truck struck a gas tank of the semi. The semi, which was loaded with plywood, exploded into flames. The two people in the pickup were pronounced dead at the scene, the AP reported.

The flames entered into the cab of the semi. With the driver's side door partially crushed, Titus attempted to get out of the passenger door but the doors were automatically locked, said his wife, Shelia Titus, Jan. 10. He attempted to break the glass but broke his foot in the process. Finally Titus exited the truck by wedging the driver's side door open, she said.

"The witnesses said he was on fire when he got out of the truck and just kept running. He knew that other gas tank was going to explode and it did just seconds later," Shelia Titus said.

Titus, who works for Maverick Transportation of Little Rock, was airlifted to a hospital in Columbia and was later transferred to the Joseph M. Still Jr. Burn Center where he remained on life support for two days. He is now in stable condition.

"It's going to be a long process of pain and healing," she said. "He considers himself lucky to be alive."

Titus suffered second-degree burns on his face and right arm and third- and fourth-degree burns on his left arm and hands, Shelia Titus said. "He's improving every day," she said.

Titus has had two surgeries so far. He had artificial skin and skin from cadavers grafted onto his face and right arm. He was scheduled for his third surgery Jan. 11.

"Once they started working on him it is amazing what they've done," Shelia Titus said. "His spirits have never gotten down, but he does feel sorry for the two people who died."

Funds have been established at Simmons First Bank and First National Banking Company for Titus.

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