LAGRANGE, Maine — As a local man continued to recover in a Portland hospital from burns suffered in an explosion outside his convenience store, customers and friends were collecting money Friday to help him pay his medical bills.
John Decesere, co-owner of Four Corners Variety and Redemption Center, suffered burns to his face, head, torso and arms in the explosion Thursday. His condition was upgraded from fair to stable on Friday, but he is not expected to leave the hospital for home anytime soon, a spokeswoman said.
A LifeFlight helicopter flew him from the LaGrange fire station to a burn bed at the Portland hospital after the 11:20 a.m. accident.
Several passers-by used coffee and jugs of water to douse the flames that burned the 60-year-old when a six-gallon can of off-road diesel fuel exploded as he burned an old stump in his store’s side yard. One witness said Decesere told him the red plastic gasoline jug carried No. 2 or off-road diesel fuel.
On Friday, customers at the store, the town’s only retail outlet, set out a collection can for Decesere, who his wife, Joanne, said lacks medical insurance. Customers have mentioned the accident almost constantly, store clerk Diana Ricci said.
“They come in and ask me if I have heard about John,” Ricci said Friday. “They are very concerned. They want to help. They leave their name and phone number. A lot of people they already know have said they want to help out.”
“This is a little town, you know, and everybody knows everything at once,” said customer Winnie Roberts of LaGrange, who tried to call Joanne to offer help after seeing news of the accident. “I know there are a couple of us who want to put on a benefit supper.”
The Deceseres have been described as hardworking people who like to help others and who have renovated the store tirelessly since assuming ownership about four years ago.
Customers said Decesere was getting to be a bit famous for his determined battle with the huge blackened stump in the store’s side yard — he hated the stump, they said — but was far better known for his community contributions despite his short tenure at the store.
Friends have worked as clerks at the store to allow Joanne Decesere time to visit her husband at the hospital, they said.
“I think it is natural to want to help somebody,” Roberts added.