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Propane fire sends man to hospital

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By CONNIE ESHThe Wilson Post

A flash fire involving a propane heater Thursday morning left a man hospitalized with burns to his face, legs and one hand.

Michael “Happie” Seals, who is about age 50, was attempting to light the stove which was located in a lot behind Uncle Pete’s Truck Stop on Sparta Pike when the flames blew back in his face causing the burns.

Lebanon Fire Department received the call about 8 a.m., said Chief Chris Dowell.

“When we arrived he was in a back room at the truck stop and they were taking care of him,” Dowell said.

Dowell said firefighters started evaluating Seals’ injuries, but when Wilson County Emergency Management Agency workers arrived they took over and asked that LifeFlight helicopter be on stand-by at the Lebanon Airport.

WEMA emergency personnel then took Seals by ambulance to the LifeFlight helicopter which transported him to Vanderbilt Medical Center for treatment, Dowell said.

Truck stop owner “Uncle Pete” Norman followed Seals to the hospital and he reported that the man is in stable condition.

“They said barring unforeseen problems, he should be OK,” Norman said Thursday afternoon. “He shouldn’t have any scars on his face and his lungs were clear.”

Norman said Seals was a homeless man he’s known for several years.

“When I first met him he was working for a carnival, and it left and stranded him here,” Norman said. “That was about 10 years ago.”

Norman added the truck stop fed Seals then and kind of took care of him.

“Then about three or four months ago, the man who owned the carnival died, so he had no place to go,” Norman said. So he came back to Uncle Pete’s where he’d found help before. Norman said during the past few months he has learned that all of Seals’ family is dead.

“He got mugged in Memphis on his way here. They took everything but the clothes he had on his back,” Norman continued.

When Seals arrived in Lebanon, he had nothing and Norman gave him some jeans and shirts, and he’s been sleeping in a pup tent ever since.

“We feed him off the buffet,” Norman said. “I can’t turn somebody who’s hungry away.”

Norman said he expected to help him get through the winter until he could find another job somewhere, but now with the burns he sustained Thursday, Seals may need more help.

Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at

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