Guardsmen honored for rescue during electrical accident

5:19 PM, Jul 22, 2010   |    comments
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Next week marks one year since three members of the National Guard escaped death during an electrical accident at the Jefferson County Fair.

The physical scars on Pvt. Kenny Matthews and Sergeant First Class David Seals serve as a reminder of the accident on July 31, 2009.  It is an event that neither of them can remember.

"It happened on a Wednesday and they say I opened my eyes on Sunday," said Matthews.  "I don't remember anything happening."

"I don't remember anything of that day or the day before," said David Seals.  "I remember waking up in Vanderbilt where 52 percent of my body had third degree burns and I lost my arm during the accident."

The accident happened during a National Guard recruiting trip at the Jefferson County Fair.  SFC David Seals was setting up a rock climbing wall as part of the display when it accidentally touched power lines.  Tens of thousands of volts then hit Seals and an electronic controller box landed on top of him.

"Two young men rushed in to save me.  They were both hurt in the process," said Seals. 

Those two men were Matthews and Sergeant Jonathan Seals.  Jonathan is David's son.

Matthews lost all of the toes on his left foot, muscle mass in his leg, and his hand was melted.  His fingers healed fused together and doctors have since had to separate his fingers.

"It has been a lot to go through. I was at Vanderbilt for 11 weeks.  In those 11 weeks I had over 13 surgeries," said Matthews.

Thursday the Tennessee National Guard's assistant adjutant general presented Jonathan Seals and Kenny Matthews with the Ribbon for Valor.  Matthews also earned the national Soldier's Medal for Heroism.

For David Seals, the greatest honor is the love and support he has received since his injury from the son who helped saved his life.

"The love that my son had for me to risk his life makes me very emotional.  I know I would give my life for him, but for your own son to put his life in danger to save his dad, that to me was the greatest love I've ever known."

Matthews has returned to the National Guard as a recruiter while he continues to undergo extensive physical therapy. 

Although SFC Seals lost his arm, he hopes to continue his military career as an amputee.  As of now, Seals has 26 years of service in the military.  Seals said he would like to complete his full 30 years before retiring.

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