Man dies after catching on fire at Nashville hospital, family says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Middle Tennessee woman became a widow on Thanksgiving after she says her husband caught fire while being treated at a Nashville hospital.

Kathy Stark has been by her husband’s side for the past 35 years, through sickness and in health. She said Bobby Ray was bedridden for the last seven years, and earlier this month, went to the hospital for bed sores and a foot infection.  

Eventually, he was transferred to TriStar Centennial Medical Center, where Kathy said he coded and staff tried to revive him.    

“Then they started the [defibrillator] paddles, and it just blew up, everything,” Kathy said. “I saw that and I just burst out.” 

Kathy said she saw flames cover her husband’s body.  

“He got burned in the throat, the face, the head, the chest and his hands. And he got burnt really bad, he was on fire, and I said, ‘he’s on fire, put him out,’” Kathy recalled.  

Kathy said Bobby Ray was taken to TriStar Skyline Medical Center’s burn unit, where he ended up dying Thanksgiving night. She is now staying with Bobby’s daughter, who is calling for answers from the hospital. 

“They even made the comment to her, she’s repeated it to me many times of ‘this has never happened before,’” said Joyce Feakes, Bobby Ray’s daughter. Medical staff also reported that there was a faulty wire in the pad. “They need to make sure that that doesn’t happen to somebody else, so somebody else doesn’t lose their husband, their best friend, their dad. And even worse, we lost him on Thanksgiving.” 

Last year, a 69-year-old Ohio woman was badly burned in a fire as medical staff used a defibrillator on her. The woman, who was being treated for COVID-19, later died, according to the Houston Chronicle.

TriStar tells Nexstar’s WKRN they are investigating what happened and released the following statement: 

“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. The death of a loved one is always very difficult, and our hearts go out to this family.” 

AED USA, a manufacturer of AEDs (automated external defibrillators), warns against using a defibrillator in a room with a “buildup of combustible vapors” because “sparks generated pose risk of explosion and fire.”

This includes free-flowing oxygen, according to the University of Missouri’s Environmental Health & Safety. The Naval Postgraduate School also warns not to use alcohol wipes on a patient’s chest before using a defibrillator because of the alcohol’s flammability.

Kathy didn’t work and relied on Bobby’s income. His family has set up a GoFundMe to help her get by.