Christian Cooper recovering after near fatal car fire

by Ken Reece | Aug 29, 2016
11524740_GHOOVER, AL (WBRC) - February 27, 2016 will always be a dark day for Christian Cooper.
The 25-year-old from Hoover was driving home from a meeting in downtown Birmingham when he noticed the passenger's side of his car was on fire.
"I looked to the side of the car and a fire had started," said Christian, "I kind of went into panic mode, ran off the road."
Christian ended up in a ravine on I-65 near Alford Avenue.
"I didn't really realize how far off I was off the road, but I was pretty far off," Christian remembered, "I tried the door, the door jammed I guess leaving the road.  I began to immediately try to punch out or elbow out the driver's side window and that was pretty much impossible."
Christian slid down in the car and eventually kicked out the windshield on the third or fourth try. About that time three good Samaritans came to his rescue.
"And I remember them saying we're going to get you out of here, but you're going to have to help me push,'" said Christian, "So I kind of gave a little jump off the center console and at this time I didn't realize the extent of anything, my adrenaline was going so fast I couldn't feel anything. I didn't realize that I was literally on fire."  Christian said the good Samaritans helped pull him to the top of the ravine.
They set me down and it was almost like a wave of pain just came over and then I woke up in Augusta, Georgia," said Christian.
Christian was at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center.  Doctors kept him heavily sedated for about a month.
"It's definitely a strange thing to learn when you realize that the majority of your skin has been severely burned," said Christian.  He had several major surgeries to remove the dead tissue. 
Thanks to some special volunteers, Christian won't have to sit in a car for four hours traveling to Augusta; he can take a one-hour flight instead.
"I told my mother I said 'I don't really want to take a plane because what if I'm just going over there for my check up and somebody needs the plane to really get to the hospital?' and she said no, no, no it's just a service they provide for the patients," said Christian.
That service is called ANGEL FLIGHT SOARS™;.  Pilots around the country volunteer their time and planes to take sick patients to doctor's appointments.
"Typically you do a tag team.  One will typically take them 250 miles and the new one will take them another 250 if they have to go 500 or more miles,"
said Dr. Del Hahn, who served as Christian's pilot for his first doctor's appointment since being released from the hospital in early August.
Dr. Hahn's wife, Peg, usually accompanies him on his flights.  He calls her the angel to his flight.
"He has to be concerned with flying the airplane where I can be more involved with the people who come and go with us," said Peg Hahn, "We enjoy helping people.  We like to fly and we've met some beautiful people and it really moves you."
The Hahns came from central Illinois to Birmingham to retire, but Dr. Hahn still works part time as a radiologist at Cooper Green and with a private practice.
He's been doing ANGEL FLIGHT™ for 25 years and he tries to do one per month.
"I think it does help that Del is a doctor," said Peg, "This is my opinion, I think they talk more freely to him because he understands the medical terminology. I really do I think it's a comfort."
So far this year, ANGEL FLIGHT SOARS™ has provided more than 300 free flights for patients at the JMS Burn Center.  That doesn't include all the flights they provide nationwide.