Families connect over explosion incident 30 years ago
A look into the past brought two families back together to reexamine an incident that happened 30 years ago.
In an amazing story that involves an explosion, a family friend passing away, the result is to notify the public to consider organ donation.
Larry Privett, city of Cassville employee, recounted the tragedy.
“I worked at Grand Tire in 1989 as a tire maintenance employee,” Privett said. “The accident happened on August 24, 1989.”
Privett said he remembers going to work on that warm August day 30 years ago.
“I remember that I was running late,” he said. “I don’t know why I remember that, but I was running late, however made it to work on time. It was a nice, really warm day.”
Privett said he started the day doing his normal routine, then it got busy.
“I can still picture the horse trailer tire that I was working on right at about 9 a.m.,” he said. “I can remember seeing Dr. Eugene (Doc) Miekley and his wife across the street. He was a well known veterinarian in the County, they were out feeding baby calves in some bins that they had set up.”
Privett said everyone heard the explosion, and his boss at the time caught him before he hit the floor.
“The tire had exploded,” he said. “It had already been aired up, and I was watching the air gauge that was to the left of me. It was a faulty tire, and it exploded from the bottom side.”
Privett said his injuries were severe.
“I was hit in the right side of my face, which caused major injuries to my right eye,” he said. “My boss ran out yelling for help. Doc came running over to help. He was a veterinarian but he was just as good as a doctor.”
Privett said he doesn’t remember much after that until about four days later.
“They took me to the South Barry County Hospital, and Doc helped me until the ambulance got there,” he said. “Then, they called the helicopter to come pick me up and took me to Springfield.”
Privett said it has always stuck in his mind that God had everything lined up for that day.
“God had Doc across the street,” he said. “During all of this, a good family friend Freddy ‘Leon’ Sanders had been in the hospital for eight days with a deteriorating heart.”
Privett said Leon was at the same hospital that he was life-flighted to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield.
“Leon passed away on Aug. 25, 1989, the day after I got hurt,” he said. “I learned about his death awhile after I had left the hospital. I had a few different surgeries and was in the hospital for awhile.”
Privett said it was around Christmas time and he ran into Ruth Sanders, Leon’s wife, at the old Walmart where Tractor Supply is now.
“She came up to me and she asked me if I knew what had happened, and I said, ‘No Ruth, I have no idea,”’ he said. “She told me that in the hospital Leon’s eyes were donated to me for one of my surgeries.”
Privett said he was at a loss for words.
“I didn’t know what to say to her,” he said. “I just felt the hand of God in the situation. He was the type of guy who loved to help people out, and I thought this was just the most amazing thing.”
Privett said if there was anything that Leon could do for someone, he would do it.
“I still have very limited vision in my right eye, and the doctor said I am legally blind,” he said. “With my good eye closed, I can see that it is daylight outside and shapes, but that’s it.”
Privett said in another twist, which he believes is God’s gift to him, his granddaughter was born on Aug. 24, 2015, four years ago.
“I didn’t go back to work at Grand Tire after that,” he said. “I was off work for about 11 months and after six months, they let me go.
“They shouldn’t have done that, but in a way they did me a favor, and I have been working at the City of Cassville since 1990.”
Privett said he wants to thank God for getting him through this incident.
“Without the help from good friends, good churches and my mom, I couldn’t have done it,” he said. “I thank God for everything.”
Becky Hilburn said after her father, Leon, had passed away, a nurse went in to talk to his wife Ruth about organ donation.
“He was always trying to help people,” she said. “When the nurse asked my mom about organ donation, there was no doubt in her mind that he would definitely help if he could.”
Becky said the miracle was that the whites of her fathers eyes were used to repair Larry’s eyes.
“We are very grateful to the Lord for the timing of the accident,” she said. “The death of my father has connected our two families.”
Rebecca said she hopes more people think about being an organ donor.
“You never know who you might help out,” she said. “Miracles happen every day.”