TN patient dies after oxygen explodes in Nashville hospital

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – A Tennessee woman says she watched her husband’s face catch fire after oxygen exploded at a Nashville hospital on Thanksgiving Day. He died a short time later, and now hospitals worldwide are paying closer attention to this rare, but potentially deadly issue.

On Thursday, at TriStar Centennial Medical Center, a 35-year marriage changed in an instant.

“I was sitting in the chair, and it blew up,” said Kathy Stark. “And you could smell the smoke, it was terrible.”

Kathy’s husband, Bobby Ray Stark, was in a hospital room before foot surgery. She says he was hooked up to an oxygen tank when his blood pressure dropped dramatically. She remembers one of the 10 nurses in the room called a crash cart. That’s when a fire sparked and his oxygen tank, a life-saving device, became life-taking.

“It burned off his beard, he got burned on his chest, his hands, his head, and his back I think,” Stark recalled.

Kathy Stark says she looked inside Bobby Stark’s mouth and saw it was also burnt. She now believes it scorched his throat and lungs.

“I just went into shock,” she said. “I’d never seen anything like that, and I said that. And they (hospital staff) said that.”

We brought this case to an injury lawyer, Brandon Bass with The Law Offices of John Day. He says fires happen in operating rooms around the world over 600 times a year and can be deadly.

“OR (operating room) fires, they happen, but they’re not supposed to,” Bass said. “There’s a bunch of protocols put in place to prevent that from occurring.”

Bass says it takes three components to light up oxygen: fuel – like plastic tubes, oxygen itself, and a spark.

“Once it occurs, where’s the oxygen? Where’s the fuel going?” Bass questioned. “It’s deliberately going down and into the person’s lungs.”

Kathy Stark said Bobby Stark was sent to Tristar Skyline’s burn unit where he died. As her husband’s sole caretaker for seven years, she didn’t expect to lose him in seconds.

“I just wonder what happened and don’t want it to happen again,” Kathy said.

WSMV4 reached out to HCA Healthcare about what happened, and they responded with 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 the equipment. The death of a loved one is always very difficult, and our hearts go out to this family.

  • Anna-Lee Cockrill, AVP, Strategic Communications and Public Relations.

The Stark’s said they are working to hire an attorney and take the case to court.

They have also started a GoFundMe for their family who depended on Bobby Stark’s social security.

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