Harrison County

Update: Angel Flight delivers John Harrison back home

John Harrison Doucet is surrounded by family after arriving home to Gulfport on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
John Harrison Doucet is surrounded by family after arriving home to Gulfport on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. amccoy@sunherald.com

John Harrison Doucet came home Tuesday to the family, friends and Gulf waters he loves after miraculously surviving an electrical shock that burned him to the bone.

The 20-year-old sailor’s tight-knit family thought several times they would lose him, but he has pulled through over the last seven months at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga.

His mother, Ruthie McMullen, is flying home with him on an Angel Flight Soars flight. She vowed she would not leave John Harrison’s side until he could come home with her. A wide circle of family, friends and supporters awaited his arrival.

Jeff Wall, the volunteer pilot bringing them home, said this will be his fourth flight with family members. He landed in Augusta on Wednesday morning, where his plane was fueled and an ambulance had arrived with John Harrison for the three-hour flight.

This is Wall’s third flight with the family. “This has been a long time coming and a lot of people didn’t think it would happen,” said Wall, a business owner who rearranged his schedule so he could be off for the flight.

John Harrison, the oldest of his siblings, has a large nuclear family: parents, step parents, two brothers and two stepsisters. Their support helped him pull through.

“They’re awesome folks,” said Wall, who grew up on the Coast and is the son of deceased former Biloxi Councilman Tom Wall and real estate broker Arlene Wall. “I’ve been really impressed with the way the family has rallied around him.”

By all accounts, family support helped save John Harrison’s life. Visits from his siblings never failed to lift his spirits. The Coast and sailing communities also poured on the support, with businesses holding fund-raisers and individuals contributing to help cover medical and travel expenses.

He suffered third- and fourth-degree burns over 75 percent of his body. John Harrison was parking his sailboat at the Gulfport Yacht Club when a line from the mast came into contact with an overhead power line while his hand was on the trailer. First-responders thought he would die, they said at the time.

He was airlifted to the JMS hospital in Jackson, then transferred to JMS Augusta, the nation’s largest burn center.

“I can tell you this, they have a great love of family, I certainly know that,” said Bernadette Darnell, director of operations for Angel Flight Soars. This will be Angel Flight Soars’ 40th flight for the family while John Harrison has been in Augusta.

His stepmother, Katie Achenbach-Doucet, said John Harrison anticipated the flight home “like a kid at Christmas. John Harrison is just so excited.”

He will have a brief respite in Gulfport before returning to JMS to be fitted for prosthetic limbs. His right arm and both legs had to be amputated because of his injuries.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99