Rossland students hear burn survivor’s story

On Monday, Spencer Beach spoke to Rossland Secondary School students about how one decision can change your life.

Spencer Beach was burned in a workplace accident 10 years ago. On Monday he spoke about safety at Rossland Secondary School.

On Monday, Spencer Beach spoke to Rossland Secondary School students while he was in the area to do presentations for Teck.

Beach suffered third and fourth degree burns over 90 per cent of his body when he was engulfed in flames. He was given a five per cent chance to live.

His message was that one bad decision can change your life, whether that be not wearing a helmet while on your bike, speeding in your car or skiing beyond your level.

For Beach, that decision was going against his better judgment and working in unsafe conditions.

Beach was working as a floor layer up to the accident. His father and grandfather had taught him to remove linoleum by wearing a good pair of kneepads and a scraper, and spend hours ripping up the floor, which usually took a few days.

His employer at the time had a method which skipped many of the steps and involved pouring a highly flammable chemical onto the floor, which caused the glue holding the linoleum down to reactivate.

“I knew in my gut that morning, I was telling my wife, I don’t think this is the smartest thing to go to work,” he said.

His employer had instructed him to turn down the thermostat, and open all the doors in the house for ventilation. Beach told his employer he wouldn’t do the job in the winter, because he couldn’t open the doors.

“That chemical made me really funny in the head,” he said. “Whenever I used that chemical I could taste it on my tongue for hours as it was leaving my blood supply.”

When he got to the job that day, he did as he was taught; opened the windows and turned down the thermostat. He then got to work removing the linoleum. As he did, from time to time both doors would slam shut from the wind pressure. Every time that happened, he would get up and go and open them.

At 4 p.m., Beach was almost done for the day, there was just a small patch of linoleum to remove by the front entry.

“In order to get at the little bit of linoleum behind the door, I actually closed the front door,” he said. “When I did that the entrance closed the garage door on me.”

He thought nothing of it, as he just had the small amount of work left to do.

“All of a sudden I heard a loud whistle, then bang, fire came out of nowhere and enveloped my entire body,” he recalled. “The fire was so thick that I couldn’t see through it as the flames danced all around me.”

Instinctively, he grabbed the door handle and pulled, but the pressure difference from the inside to the outside of the house was now too large and it wouldn’t budge.

The whistle he heard was all the air being pulled down into as a spark from the downstairs furnace ignited the chemical fumes in the air.

He collapsed on the floor and relegated himself to die, but the thoughts of his wife and soon-to-be born child made him get back up. Twenty seconds had passed in the inferno, and the pressures had begun to equalize, so he could get the garage door open.

He walked a few steps outside then collapsed on the ground.

From that point, it was a long road to get to where he is today. Beach now presents his story, to make people aware of the dangers that an unsafe decision can make.

For more on Beach go to www.spencerspeaks.com.