COLUMBUS, NC (FOX Carolina) – It has been almost 4 weeks since a fiery crash shut down I-26 in Columbus.
The images shot by viewers and our crews showed a chaotic and frightening scene. Miraculously, the driver in the tanker that overturned and caught fire survived, but he’s still in critical condition at the burn ICU in Augusta, Georgia.
We spoke with his wife, Sally McCue, today as she made her way home back to Western North Carolina after a visit to see him.
His wife describes his condition as tough and go, but says that she is cautiously optimistic because he was able to stand up for just 10 seconds today.
“You know it was like ‘woo hoo’, I was the biggest cheerleader in the room because he’s been in a bed for three weeks and the fact that he was able to get up just for a little bit and stand it was like this is a big deal,” she said.
It’s the seemingly small victories that are putting a smile on Sally her face as her husband, and Navy veteran, Charlie Culbreth remains in that Augusta burn unit.
“My four-year-old has been struggling with daddy being gone. It is hard for them to understand. Because when they get a little boo-boo, mommy kisses it and it is better and they go about their day, but daddy is really hurt and it is hard for them to understand why he’s not there to kiss them at night,” she told us.
After the fiery crash where Charlie’s tanker exploded, sending smoke billowing into the air, she says it is a miracle that he is alive, but this is just the beginning of what will be a long recovery process.
Sally believes, “he will carry the scars for the rest of his life and he may have long-standing injuries. This will be a long process, but he is going to have a lot of surgeries, a lot of physical therapy and there is no telling if he will be able to go back to work.”
She says, “he can’t hold his girls and he misses them so much I mean our children are his life.”
They have a GoFundMe fundraiser set up, but she says it’s the priceless prayers that have brought them this far and they are grateful.
“We are a single income family and I know that there are a lot of those,” Sally says, “there’s no telling how long he is going to be out of work or if he is going to be able to work at all. The hospital bills, the cost of commuting back-and-forth, the accommodations it all adds up very very quickly.”
She says doctors believe he could spend 40 or more days in the ICU, with more surgeries and then weeks of physical therapy. This is all under the assumption that they don’t run into any complications from the roughly 40% of severe burns that he endured.
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