Zach Mitchell Remembers Accident That Burned Him in 1997

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FORT PAYNE, Ala. (WHNT)–  On February 25, 1997 Zach Mitchell and his twin brother Zane were burning leaves outside their home.  Zach poured gasoline on the fire which caught his clothing on fire and ultimately burned 86 percent of his body.

“It seems shorter you know because time is flying as you get a little older,” Mitchell said Tuesday.

He spoke to a group at GH Metals in Fort Payne about safety.

“I asked anybody if they had children.  If they have children you know my story goes perfect with that because I was a young child when it happened,” said Mitchell. “Maybe now they will say, ‘Hey, I’ll put the gas can up higher on the shelf so they can’t reach it.'”

Mitchell spent nine months in the hospital after the accident, including part of it in a Cincinnati burn center.   He says talking about what happened helps him get through the memories.

“I was going to come here regardless but I thought it would be better to come on the day of my accident.  You know it gets me out of the house, because like I said, I get depressed on this day.”

In the years since his accident, Zach finished high school and graduated from college with a degree in education.   He’s hoping to find a job soon because he believes he has a lesson to teach.

“I knew at a young age that I was going to college because I wanted to be a teacher.   I feel like I have something that other teachers don’t have,” said Mitchell.  “I feel like I can go in there and grab the kids attention just by walking in the room.   And like I said, I was telling people in the room earlier, that if a kid tells me they can’t do something, I can stop them and say you can do whatever you want to do.”


  • Karl

    Zach really epitomizes courage and the will to overcome. We can all learn from him and should aspire to never give up.

  • George Riley

    I will stand up and support this young man. I fought in Vietnam and saw the suffering of many people caused by fire. This young man has been through the furnace and came out with his head high and made something of himself when others would have struggled in self pity. Local schools, board members, and superintendents should be seeking this young man out for a job. He has heart and character and doesn’t give up. I salute him.

  • Zina Morgan

    Mr.Zack Mitchell, You are already Teaching Many Children Young & Old 90yrs. Anyone that has never been through a Body changing accident sometimes doesn’t understand the tears & pain that are there when we are alone. The person that says you can’t or downs you will I hope never feel the enter & outward pain we do.They couldn’t handle it Like You!! As for your LOVE of Teaching everyone in your every day Life They are Learning from You Now!!TEACH ON Mr.Zack Mitchell. Teach On!!

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