Days after an explosion outside a Destin home killed Michael Todd Brower, the second man injured, Dr. Luis Lopez was still fighting for his life in a Pensacola hospital.
"We are just asking for people to keep him in their prayers," said Connie McDicken, medical records supervisor with Heartland Pediatric, Lopez's practice in Marion, Ill.
The 58-year-old Lopez has specialized in pediatrics since 1987, according to his practice's website, and was the owner of the home at 704 Harbor Lane, where the car explosion took place. Lopez was transported to a Pensacola hospital via helicopter in critical condition.
The explosion occurred shortly after 7 p.m., and the force of the blast had lodged pieces of metal into nearby trees and strewn debris onto adjacent streets. The entire scene was barricaded off by emergency personal and deputies from the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.
One deputy told The Log that he heard the explosion from as far away as Destin harbor. Neighbors and spectators had gathered at the intersection of Bayou Drive and Harbor Lane, where the smell of fire and burnt metal permeated the air.
Battalion Chief Jimmy Taylor, from the Destin Fire Control District, told The Log that the blast was so intense he could feel it from his nearby home.
"I live like 250-feet from there…" he said. "It rattled the house."
Taylor said first responders arrived on the scene four minutes after the call came in and when they arrived on the scene, it was "total devastation."
He said the vehicle where the explosion had originated was fully engulfed and firefighters extinguished it by 7:41 p.m.
"I have never seen an explosion quite like that before," Taylor said. "It's incredible that anybody within the proximity lived."
A third man was about 15-20 feet away from the explosion when it occurred, Taylor said, and he was completely unharmed.
"Really and truly, how it didn't kill all three of them, I don't know," he said.
Sheriff Larry Ashley says the incident was a “freak and tragic accident,” and investigators are focusing on acetylene torches that were rented to do work on the house.
Officials from the Fire Marshal's office have said the explosion is "consistent with a gas or vapor explosion."
While the accident remains under investigation, friends, family and acquaintances of Lopez and Brower have taken to various Facebook pages to offer condolences and well wishes.
Kelly Brenner Williams wrote on WSIL News 3's Facebook page. "My twelve year old son is autistic, epileptic, and has various other issues. Over ten years ago we were traveling almost monthly to St. Louis basically for prescriptions. Dr. Lopez was the ONLY Dr. who would take on my son's case. He diagnosed him when no other doctor would and has prescribed all of his meds for well over ten years now. By FAR the BEST Dr. I have ever taken either one of my children to. Praying very hard for a VERY SPECIAL DOCTOR, and also for the other families loss..."
Shelly Shewmaker Anderson wrote "Such an unfortunate accident. My children and I were upset to hear that our pediatrician was critically injured. Dr. Lopez is such a caring individual. We pray he will recover quickly."
"This is so very sad. He has been my son's Dr for almost 11 years. Since he was a newborn," Amber Hooker wrote. "He has always had a way of making him feel safe and comfortable during exams and still tells him he's checking for chicken nuggets and pizza when he checks his stomach. Though my son is older now, he still giggles when Dr Lopez says it. All involved are in our thoughts and we hope for a speedy recovery."
Michael Todd Brower will be laid to rest Thursday in Zeigler, Illinois.
The 37-year-old devoted husband and father of three was an accomplished handyman who had come to Destin late last week to help his uncle, John Brower, and his uncle's longtime friend, Dr. Luis Lopez.
"This is a tragedy beyond what anyone can believe," his brother-in-law, Michael Bramlett told The Daily News. "He did whatever it took to provide for his family." Donations can be sent to the “Michael Todd Brower Memorial Fund” for his children’s education.
Donations can be mailed to the Old National Bank, P.O. 280, Carterville, IL 62918.