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Recovery continues for man burned in culinary arts class

February 04, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Life changed for Dustin Holley on Thursday, May 9, 2002, as his culinary arts class gathered around a stove to learn how to prepare a chicken flamb dish.

The alcohol being used ignited, and Holley and two of his classmates were burned, Holley the most seriously.

Holley, 18, suffered third-degree burns to his face, chest and arms. Two of his classmates suffered burns to their hands and arms.

Holley, with his burns bandaged, walked across the stage for his diploma at Washington County Technical High School's graduation ceremony last June. At the ceremony, his classmates presented him with $243 they collected to help him with medical expenses.

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Now, in the downtown Hagerstown apartment that he shares with three friends, Holley said he cannot cook in a restaurant kitchen right now.

"I've got to give it a rest," he said.

That doesn't mean he doesn't cook, however.

On this day, he was preparing linguini with marinara sauce and sausage for his friends. He said he still bakes and makes dinner for his roommates about twice a week.

"I'm not afraid to cook because I'm not the one who made the mistake," he said.

Holley, whose face is visibly scarred around his lower lip and jaw, has worn a silicon brace, which is fixed around his jaw and head, for the past five months.

The brace makes it slightly difficult for Holley to speak, but he manages.

Holley has had a skin graft, in which healthy skin from his leg was used to replace burned skin on his face and neck. He travels weekly to Baltimore for massages, which he said will help reduce scarring to his face.

He expects to have more surgery to replace scar tissue.

In talking about the accident, he said it was about 11:45 a.m. and one of the students was showing the other two how to prepare a flamb dish. The student was at the point where cooking liquor was to be poured into a pan on the stove. The cooking liquor ignited and flashed back, burning all three students, Boyd Michael, director of secondary education, said at the time.

"The bottle exploded and it was done," Holley said.

Holley said he remembers being on fire, running around the kitchen and screaming.

Holley grabbed onto one of the legs of his pants.

"You know how Barney says to stop, drop and roll?" he said. "Well, when you're on fire, you don't think about that stuff."

He said he's been told that two of his high school classmates assisted him at the hospital and on his way there, but he doesn't remember anything beyond the culinary arts room.

Holley now works for Regis Corp., an inventory sales group, and plans to take paralegal studies at Hagerstown Community College in the spring.

In his spare time he raps. Holley, a.k.a. Prahna James, said when he raps with his friend, Darnell Hymes, 20, who goes by A.K., the two call themselves Concealed Compound.

Although most of the pain is gone, Holley said he gets tired of people staring at him.

"I don't like it when people stare," he said. "I'd rather people ask questions."

Holley said that after what he's been through, he is not afraid of fire.

"Fire is the worst pain I can face," he said.

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