CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A UNC professor is out of surgery and recovering from second degree burns after an explosion on campus last Thursday.
Dan Reichart, an astronomy professor, saw a fire at the historic Davie Poplar tree on the Chapel Hill campus. The professor tried putting out a small fire, unaware the device was about to go off.
Joshua Edwards, a former student, faces several felony charges. Edwards is currently not enrolled at the university. He's listed as junior who was majoring in Biology, but withdrew from the school in 2016. He's facing an arson charged but others could be filed, according to UNC Media Relations. Edwards is getting a mental evaluation and hasn't been officially charged.
The explosion was a complete surprise to Reichart. He said, all he was trying to do was put out a small fire.
“I was walking across at McCorkle Place on the UNC campus. I saw a fire at the base of the historic Davie Poplar tree. I went over to it and, it didn't look too big to put out, I was an Eagle Scout as a kid so I have some familiarity with fires,” he said.
Then, suddenly - an explosion.
“It threw me back about 30 feet. I remember taking two or three steps back, but looking at the video after the fact, and doing some measurements it threw me back about 30 feet,” Reichart said.
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The second-degree burns covered 10 to 11 percent of his face, ears, neck, and top of his head, plus the back of his arms, hands and feet, according to his doctors.
He’s taught at UNC Chapel Hill for 15 years, but will be sitting out the rest of the semester to heal. Doctors cleared him to go back to teaching in the spring.
Reichart is making the most of the situation by starting up a campaign for No Shave November.
“I’m not going to be shaving for the better part of the month anyway, so I might as well do this and something good can come of it,” he said.
You can find that fundraiser here.
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