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Professor Daniel Reichart looks to help others while recovering from burns



Dr. Daniel Reichart, a UNC professor of physics and astronomy, was injured in the explosion at the Davie Poplar tree on Nov. 2. Photo courtesy of Daniel Reichart. 

UNC Physics and Astronomy Professor Daniel Reichart's Thursday didn't go quite as planned. 

“I was on my way to get some ice cream and I saw fire,” Reichart said. “I just thought it was simple arson. Growing up, I was an Eagle Scout, so I have some similarity with fires. I never saw the perpetrator, everything just accelerated so fast.”

Reichart had come across the explosion at the Davie Poplar, a campus landmark. He approached the tree and attempted to kick the fire out. In a matter of 15 to 20 seconds after approaching the fire, the backpack the fire started from exploded. In the process, the tree was scorched and Reichart said he was thrown about 30 feet.

“I just got up, and I must have been pumped with adrenaline," he said. "Medical students gave me some water to pour over my hands and my head. The fire department arrived and I walked to the ambulance. I’ve been here (at the hospital) since Thursday.”

A video surfaced of the explosion, showing the professor approaching the tree and after a couple of kicks the backpack explodes.

“When I heard the news I got really nervous,” said undergraduate research assistant Dylan Dutton, who works with Reichart. “I saw the video and knew it was him. I’m not surprised he went up to the tree. He never wants to be a bystander, he always wants to go and help the situation. He’s a great guy, and he was just trying to help out a bad situation.”

The doctors originally believed that about 2 to 3 percent of the professor's body was burned in the explosion, but after examination it was found to be much more extensive.

“About 10 to 11 percent of my body was burned. I have second degree burns on my face, the top of my head, my lower arms and the back of my hands. I’m feeling OK, a little bit better each day. I am expected to make a full recovery but it is going to be a while,” Reichart said. “I would like to thank everyone who has helped me. The medical students that helped me, the emergency responders and especially the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Health Care, which I truly believe to be one of the top burn centers in the country.”

While in the hospital, Reichart and his wife decided to take the situation and turn it into something greater by setting up a No-Shave November donation page. The idea is that the money you save by not shaving can instead be donated toward cancer research. 

“This is bad, but it does not have to be all bad,” Reichart said. “Maybe some good can come of this. By early spring I should be teaching again, Davie Poplar will be blooming again and hopefully the only thing the perpetrator will have accomplished is to have helped raised money for cancer research.”

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