Anthony Taylor, 21, was finally coming to grips with an accident that had paralyzed him from the waist down when he was in a fiery automobile crash Sunday in Vancleave.
On Tuesday morning, Taylor died at a hospital in Jackson from severe burns, said Cathie Curtis Lizana, whose son was a friend of Taylor. Lizana said she “adored” Taylor, who was trying to remain positive after the four-wheeler accident that left him paralyzed. He had just gotten a customized LSU wheelchair.
“I was shocked and saddened that something this tragic could hit this close to home in the blink of an eye,” Lizana said, “with not one but two tragedies in a year.”
Taylor was riding Sunday evening in a pickup truck driven by Randy Harris of Vancleave on Seaman Road that left the road for reasons the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department is trying to piece together. The truck hit several pine trees and came to rest on its side. The results of the investigation will be presented to a grand jury, as they always are when an accident involves a fatality, Sheriff’s Lt. Bryan Cooper said.
Harris was treated at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula and released.
Chip and Anna Cole happened on the wreck after leaving her mother’s house in Vancleave. Anna Cole said they pulled to the roadside with their headlights shining on the accident so they could see. The wrecked truck was on its side, she said, and the driver was climbing out.
“He yelled that his friend, who was paraplegic, needed help getting out of the cab,” she said. Chip Cole and several other men tried to right the truck, but couldn’t. When Chip Cole turned from the truck, it exploded.
“Everybody caught on fire a little bit,” she said. “They all hit the ground.”
Her husband landed in a ditch that, fortunately, held water from a recent rain. She ran to him about the time paramedics drove up.
Taylor was flown to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Merit Health in Jackson, the same center where a 20-year-old Gulfport sailor was flown Sunday night after he was shocked by a power line outside the Gulfport Yacht Club. (The young sailor, John Harrison Doucet, is in critical condition after being moved to the JMS Burn Center at Doctor’s Hospital in Augusta, Ga., a hospital spokesman said Tuesday afternoon.)
Chip Cole, the son of former Pascagoula Mayor Joe Cole, is being treated at University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile for second-degree burns. He is already up and walking around. He has burns on his arms and legs, and looks like his face has been sunburned, Anna Cole said.
“He’s in good spirits,” Anna Cole said. “They’re giving him medication, having him rest a lot, giving him fluids and having him wait it out right now.”
She said she expects her husband to be in the hospital a week or longer.
Cole’s friend Michael Jackson was not surprised Cole stopped to help after the accident.
“That’s his type of personality,” said Jackson, as assistant principal at Gautier Middle School, where Cole had worked as a science teacher. “He’s just a good guy. He’ll bend over backward for you.”
Good Samaritan Dustin Allgood of Lucedale also was injured when the truck exploded. He, too, was flown to the JMS Burn Center in Jackson. He is expected to recover.
Taylor’s public Facebook posts indicate he was coming to grips with his paralysis. He wrote Aug. 17:
“If being paralyzed is what it took for me to realize what I needed to do — stay away from bad influences, straighten up — and leads to my son being back in my arms soon, then I’ll forever look back and be thankful for this happening in my life.
“I’ll appreciate my situation for helping me change my ways and seeing clearly way more than I appreciate it now. ...
“The love most have for their child is a love stronger than all the others and is like no other. I’m doing this for me, but I’m mostly doing this for my baby boy. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been able to get back up all the times I’ve fell.
“He makes me want to be a better person each and every day. I have something I owe him and what he needs, if this is the real beginning to a better life with him in it forever, then I’m very happy I became paralyzed.”
Staff writer Karen Nelson contributed to this report.