When Joseph Stack apparently intentionally crashed his single-engine Piper Cherokee PA-28-236 Dakota into a Northwest Austin Office Building that housed several federal offices including around 200 IRS employees, there was a huge fireball and resulting fire that engulfed the building into flames and smoke. 

One man, Vernon Hunter, a 67 year old Revenue  Office Manager with the IRS in Austin,  with six grown children, was killed in the incident.

Another one of the victims, 38-year old Shane Hill, and an employee of the Texas Comptroller’s office was initially taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge, one of the two Texas Hospitals involved in his care,  and then airlifted to the Brooke Army Medical Center after receiving 2nd degree burns mostly on his back and covering  20 to 25 percent of his body. Dr. Christopher Ziebell,  Emergency Department Medical Director of Brackenridge Hospital, said that patients sustaining these types of injuries tend to fully recover.

Burns, however, are notoriously difficult and painful injuries to heal.  Categorized into 3 types, burns are classified as either 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree injuries. The staging is related to the deepness or thickness of the burn injury and the amount of tissues that are affected.

First-Degree Burs
:  The least serious of the three types, in first degree burns, the top layer covering the skin, called the epidermis is injured, but still intact.

Second-Degree Burn:  These types of burns are generally the most painful. This type of burn not only penetrates through the first layer or epidermis of the skin, but it also into the dermis (2nd layer of skin). In these types of burns the top layer of skin (epidermis) actually begins to separate from the 2nd layer (dermis).  Fluid builds up in the space between these layers which causes blisters to form.  If the victim has 2nd-degree burns over larger body areas, there is a dangerous possibility that the victim could go into shock.  Shock happens when the patient’s blood pressure becomes very low because there is not enough blood actually reaching the major organs of the body, including the brain.  The shifts in fluid that can sometimes happen in second-degree burns as the top layer of the skin (epidermis) separates from the 2nd layer (the dermis) can cause the patient to not only lose fluid and possibly suffer shock as a result, but also the patient’s skin is not able to maintain bodily temperature or heat regulation, and not able to block infection. Because the nerve cells are intact in second-degree burns, whereas in third-degree burns, the nerve cells are destroyed, the pain from second degree burns can be even more intense than that experienced by patients with third-degree burns.

Third-Degree Burn: These are the most serious of the three types of burns, and the most deadly.  In this type of burn all layers of the skin and are known as full thickness burns: epidermis, dermis and the hypodermis (or subcutaneous layer of tissues). Burns of this nature may even injure muscles, fat or bone.   White or blackened skin may be seen and areas of charred skin may be numb.

Burn treatment is more involved than other types of trauma injuries and may take in general, 1-2 days of hospitalization for every 1% of the body that is burned.

Treatment, may be excruciatingly painful, especially during dressing changes and/or any process involving skin grafting.  According to a spokesman for Brooke Army Medical Center the victim who was airlifted to the Medical Center,  Mr. Shane Hill is currently in stable condition as of Friday, February 19th in the afternoon.  We wish him and his family the best during his recovery process and our condolences go out to Mr. Vernon Hunter’s family as well as everyone involved in this incident.