June 18, 2015 started out as just a normal work day for Brandon Springer.
A commercial plumber working for MacDonald-Miller, a construction firm sub-contracting for BNBuilders, he and his crew were working at a vacant property off Southeast Eastgate Way in Bellevue.
Springer, now 38, and a member of his crew, 45-year-old Kevin Tronsdal, dug a hole to adjust a water main line, but had no idea that the gas line near them was live.
Sparks from soldering the water line ignited the gas line and sent plumes of smoke eight feet high, burning the shirts off Springer and Tronsdal.
Both men were able to climb out of the hole, still on fire. Co-workers extinguished the flames. Firefighters responding to the blaze had to wait for Puget Sound Energy crews to shut the gas line off before they could work on the fire. Both men were rushed to Harborview Medical Center, but Springer was in the worse shape.
He suffered burns over half his body, mostly on his chest and arms, and was in serious condition.
“I almost died,” Springer said. “The pipes weren’t to code and there was supposed to be more separation between them. The old gas line was poly(ethylene) and we were working on a copper pipe.”
Springer,a former Monroe wrestler, has undergone eight surgeries since that fateful day, including three major grafting procedures.
Brandon Springer’s older brother, Justin, and his younger brother, Tyson, both decorated wrestlers, put a scare into some unsuspecting doctors when they tried to pump Brandon up before one of those grafting surgeries.
“We had him get down off his bed with his hospital gown on, and we were screaming at him to get down in his wrestling stance,” Justin Springer said. “We were preparing him to go to war. Whatever it takes to get him through it, but a doctor came into his room and looked at us like, ‘What are you doing?’
“I thought we were all going to get thrown out of the hospital.”
Brandon fought back emotion remembering the scene.
“I was nervous and in a lot of pain,” he said. “It was great having my brothers there, and they tried to rally me. It was a throwback to all our memories wrestling together. It really motivated me a lot, and that moment helped us get through these last two years.”
Brandon Springer, and by extension, Kristen, his wife of 13 years, and their 7-year-old daughter, Chloe, have been through the wringer since June 18, 2015, but he underwent his final two surgeries earlier this summer and is doing well.
He is part of a team of plumbers that consults with MacDonald-Miller’s engineers, and is adjusting to spending most of his working hours seated at a computer instead of out on job sites with his crew.
“I loved football and all that, but wrestling is the only sport where when the whistle blows, the result is all on you,” he said. “Either you put in enough work to beat someone or you didn’t. It’s all on you. That’s what I thought was so great about it. The moments when you lose, that’s when you learn more about yourself. You find out what you’re going to do from there.”