|07-04-2008, 09:45 AM||#1|
Draft Defense Early&Often
Join Date: Oct 2004
Happy ****ING Independance Day Everyone
Don't blow yourself up!!
Disfiguring injuries can't cloud former deputy's sunny disposition
SoCals Link: http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2...cant_clou.html
by The Times-Picayune
Friday December 28, 2007, 8:53 PM
By Michelle Hunter
East Jefferson bureau
This time of year is always difficult for Eddie Benoit Jr.
Not because of the disfiguring injuries he received on New Year's Eve in 1998, in a horrific fireworks explosion near the Harvey Canal. But because he knows that accident weighs heavily on the minds of his friends and relatives when the anniversary rolls around.
STAFF PHOTOS BY JOHN McCUSKER
Nine years ago, Eddie Benoit Jr., then a Jefferson Parish sheriffs deputy, was horribly burned in a fireworks accident in Harvey on New Years Eve. Benoit, 50, is blind in one eye and has limited vision in the other. He has had 32 surgeries to restore his nose and eyelids. Yet his rapid-fire sense of humor and positive outlook were left unscathed.
Eddie Benoit Jr. holds a picture of himself before the 1998 accident. All 10 of his fingers were amputated. "I'm OK. I have lots of friends, plenty of food, and I'm happy," Benoit said. But on New Year's Eve, "I get a lot of phone calls from old friends. I know it kind of put a damper on the new year for a lot of people."
And that's Eddie Benoit for you. The fiery explosion consumed most of his skin and killed two men, including his younger brother, but it didn't destroy his pragmatism, his charisma or his concern for others.
Benoit, 50, is blind in one eye and has limited vision in the other. All 10 fingers were amputated, and he has had 32 surgeries, including skin grafts and facial reconstruction, to restore his nose and eyelids. He has difficulty breathing, and his right elbow is fused straight.
Yet his rapid-fire sense of humor was left unscathed.
"All in all, I think I'm in great condition," he said. "I'm a lot lazier than I used to be."
Benoit hasn't spoken publicly about the accident and still is prohibited from doing so by a settlement agreement reached in a court case over the explosion. But he and his daughter, Angelle Mugnier, 26, spoke recently about his recovery and his life since, Mugnier filling in the long months that Benoit spent in the hospital.
"I'm doing good," Benoit said. "It's been a long road."
According to newspaper accounts and court records, Benoit was injured on Dec. 31, 1998, just hours before New Orleans' annual New Year's Eve fireworks extravaganza over the Mississippi River. A Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office traffic deputy by day, Benoit was moonlighting as a pyrotechnichian for Classic Fireworks, the company that was hired to put on the show, according to court records.
Part of the financial backing for the show had fallen through, so Benoit was asked to remove some of the fireworks from a loaded barge and return them to a truck, court records said. He was helped by his brother Scott Benoit, 29, and another technician, Jason Stamp, 24.
About 8 p.m., something ignited the fireworks. Scott Benoit, who was inside the truck, and Stamps, who was at the rear of the vehicle, were killed instantly. Eddie Benoit was blasted backward onto the barge. He suffered third- and fourth-degree burns to more than 60 percent of his body, court records said.
Crew members on the barge extinguished the flames, and Benoit was rushed to a hospital.
Mugnier didn't hear of the accident for two hours. She was 17, a senior at Archbishop Chapelle High School in Metairie, and that night she went to a movie with her mother, brother and stepfather. When she arrived home, her grandfather, Eddie Benoit Sr., told her that her father was in the hospital. She knew from the tone of his voice that this was no minor mishap.
Then he told her, "They don't know where your uncle is."
Mugnier and the family raced to West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero and spent the rest of the night in the waiting room. It was not until the next morning that she was allowed to see her father, and even then it was through the blinds of his intensive care room. His charred and damaged skin had been removed and bandaged.
The nurses opened the door a bit, and Mugnier said she yelled, "Hey Dad, we're all here."
Later that day, they were permitted to enter the room. Mugnier was the first to build up the nerve. She scrubbed up, put on a protective gown and walked inside.
"He opened his eyes and looked around. But I don't think he remembers that," Mugnier said.
First treatments, last rites
Benoit spent about nine months in hospitals in Baton Rouge, Houston and New Orleans, the first five months in a medically induced coma. His mother, Margie Benoit, was there every day.
"My mother and father moved three times to be with me," he said.
During the early stages of Benoit's treatment, it was touch and go. Benoit received last rites on more than one occasion. Mugnier remembered racing to the Baton Rouge General Hospital burn center one day, after getting word that her father's kidneys were failing. The doctor told the family to say their goodbyes and urged one of them to tell Benoit that it was OK to let go.
Mugnier took the heart-wrenching job.
"I would never expect my grandma to do that," Mugnier said. "She had already lost one son. To give the other son permission to go ... "
So Mugnier walked to her father's side and told him, "You've been fighting for so long. We're so proud of you. You can go. You're not going to disappoint us."
Benoit had other ideas.
Although he missed his daughter's high school graduation and her 18th birthday, by the fall of 1999 he was well enough to visit her at her college, Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. He traveled there with other relatives to see a younger cousin compete in a high school track meet and paid a surprise call on Mugnier.
"I said, 'Holy cow: You're out the hospital!' " Mugnier recalled.
These days, Benoit tries not to dwell on the negative, so he usually avoids thinking about the trials of his recovery. When asked about the initial pain, he called it a difficult question to answer.
"How do you compare?" he asked. "I don't know words to describe it. If I concentrated on the pain, I wasn't going to get better."
He said he still feels pain every day, but it's nothing like what he felt then.
A typical day finds Benoit at home in Harahan. He rises early and drives a golf cart three blocks to attend Mass at St. Rita Catholic Church.
"That gives me a reason to get out of bed," he said.
He doesn't cook much, so his biggest decision of the day is lunch. He busies himself with little around-the-house projects such as rearranging the furniture, an all-day proposition for him because he doesn't have much stamina.
Benoit also has been on the receiving end of a few scoldings because he has tried to take on some projects alone. He once tried to build a television stand, but the wood got caught in the power saw and shot out, breaking his hand and injuring a rib. He didn't tell his mother for a few days, but she gave him an earful once she saw the cast.
He has taken up drumming and, while not proficient, he said he would love one day to play with Peter Noone, lead singer of one of his favorite bands, Herman's Hermits. Noone befriended Benoit after seeing him in the crowd at several concerts.
Besides eating, Benoit joked that he has few passions save for "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll."
"And the only thing I'll get any use of is rock 'n' roll," he said.
Optimism still intact
Benoit's attorney, Patrick Houghtaling, said he has always been humbled by his client's strength and positive outlook. The two became friends after Houghtaling took up Benoit's lawsuit in the accident.
Court records show that Benoit, his mother and father and the parents of Jason Stamps sued Daveyfire Inc. and its French parent company, Davey Bickford. They alleged that electric igniters manufactured by the companies were faulty. Benoit settled with the defendants in 2005.
Benoit worked 17 years with the Sheriff's Office but never returned after the accident. He could have taken an office position answering phones, but he would not have been able to go back to the job he loved, working the streets as a traffic officer.
"I don't know many people who looked forward to going to work every day like I did," said Benoit, who still misses riding his motorcycle and the interaction with the crowds at Carnival parades.
Life does fluster him from time to time. He said he can't stand having to ask for help with simple tasks. At Thanksgiving, he told his daughter to help set the table. He watched as she breezily scooped up forks in one hand and spoons in the other and said, "Damn, I miss doing that. That would have taken me three trips."
And he still thinks of his younger brother, wondering why he survived and Scott Benoit did not.
"He was only 29," Benoit said. "He'd never been married. He had his whole life ahead of him. (New Year's) is bad in that way," he admitted.
But the blues don't take Benoit for long. To him, there's no room in life to keep playing the sympathy card. He must get up and do what needs to be done.
"Nobody knows what life is going to be, and frankly, I've had a wonderful life. I have hundreds of friends. I've done more in my lifetime than most people would ever do. I'm just content," he said.
If there is one regret, it arises from what happened soon after the accident. While he fought for his life, countless thousands of people rallied to support him through fundraisers, blood drives and other vigils. He received hundreds of get-well cards and logged hundreds of visitors to his hospital rooms.
"Now that I think about all the thousands that I don't know or will never know .¤.¤. I wish there was a way that I could thank them all," he said.
Like his friends and family, those nameless thousands kept him alive. Whenever he had a bad day, Benoit said he told himself, "If I don't make it now, I'd be letting a lot of people down.
"And I didn't want to do that."
Eddie Benoit Jr. holds a picture of himself before the 1998 accident. All 10 of his fingers were amputated.
|07-04-2008, 10:09 AM||#2|
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Mile High
Leave it to the experts! I seems my neighbor hood has tranformed into a war zone. I had to keep my "mutts" inside most of the night due to the war-like atmosphere last night. I can't imagine what it'll be like tonight.
Call me an "old grouch", but I'm hunting down the first a-hole who shoots **** into my backyard.
It's pretty bad when you know you have to water not only the lawn but also the house in order to feel comfortable enough to go to Mile High for the fireworks show.
|07-04-2008, 10:34 AM||#3|
I WANT DEFENSE!
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Always Hoping
Happy 4th everyone!
What a nice/awful story! You can take a page from his wonderful attitude though, be thankful for what you do have. And I'm with you TGN. It has to be the age thing. Old stick in the muds we are.
This grand old country nailed me yesterday. Got a letter from the IRS. Was whooping because I thought it was the letter saying I was finally getting my stimulus check. No, it was the IRS telling me I made a mistake on my return and I owe over 1300.00 more plus interest and penalties.
God Bless the USA!
|07-04-2008, 10:44 AM||#4|
...there ain't no devil
Join Date: Aug 2005
Happy Birthday to your country folks.
|07-04-2008, 03:26 PM||#7|
The Enigma Prognosis
Join Date: Aug 2003
|07-04-2008, 03:41 PM||#8|
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
We live in a place were you can sneeze and start a fire (Los Angeles)... and dopes are still out there shooting off bottle-rockets. I feel sorry for police and fire crew today, especially on a Friday.
That said, I love the 4th and loved it as a kid, and yes... did shoot bottle-rockets. (In a climate more suited.)
|07-04-2008, 05:33 PM||#10|
Join Date: Jan 2003
|07-04-2008, 08:33 PM||#11|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Elway was just an arm =MacGruder
Happy independence day .........
|07-05-2008, 01:07 AM||#14|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: May 2004
Got off work about an hour ago. It was a 13 and a half hour day. cool twenty minute annual firework show. Pony rides inflatable water slides and basically a good ole southern 4th. Food and beverage manager birthday is tomorrow so we as a staff stuff 616 balloons into his office. His office is a fake room with in a bigger room with about a foot gap between wall and ceiling. He is the big 3-0. The GM allowed me to borrow the company van and rent a hotel room on the third floor to transport and store all the balloons. Can't wait till tomorrow.
|07-05-2008, 01:08 AM||#15|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: May 2004
I did my annual American trivia and jokes but some responses to how old America is turning included 50 years old, maybe a 100, 500 years old. Kind of sad. I was happy with a response of around 200 years old. Most didn't know how many branches of government.
and the joke was does france have a fourth of july most said no but how do they jump from july 3rd to july fifth. a little dry but still gets the same response year after year.
|07-05-2008, 01:46 AM||#16|
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Mile High
Hope everyone had a great day. I spent my day cruisin' the Colorado hills with my better half. The Peak to Peak hwy was the place to be.
Then we all went to Mile High to watch a psycho fireworks show at Mile High. Damn guy had a fire on top of the Jumbotron in the south end zone and they have never heard of syncroonizing the music and the fireworks..
I would think he'll be looking for a job tomorrow.