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Explosion Victim Recovers; Wife Thanks 'Whoever Was Watching Over Him'

By Jamie Leary

WINDSOR, Colo. (CBS4) - The sole victim of an explosion at an oil and gas site in Windsor continues to recover at the North Colorado Medical Center.

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(credit: CBS)

Houston Pirtle, 27, who works for Extraction Oil and Gas, suffered 2nd degree burns across his face and 3rd degree burns on his hands during the explosion.

On Wednesday, after nearly two weeks of entubation and heavy sedation, Pirtle is making progress.

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Houston Pirtle (credit: Rachel Darrah)

"It's amazing. He just had the tubes pulled out of his throat so he is talking. And yes, I am very happy and excited," said Rachel Darrah, Pirtle's wife.

For the last two weeks, Darrah has sat with her husband, talking to him hoping he could hear her.

"I broke down when he was finally able to see me. I don't know if he remembers," she said. "For that moment, at least, he knew that I was there and that he was okay."

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(credit: Rachel Darrah)

More tears fell when she saw him Wednesday morning finally able to speak. His first question to his wife?

"He asked if I was okay. That's just who he is -- wanted to make sure me and the kids were okay," she said.

The couple have two small children together. They are not allowed to visit, but are anxious for their dad to come home.

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Houston Pirtle, Rachel Darrah and their children. (credit: Rachel Darrah)

"I just thank whoever was watching over him that night, that it wasn't a different phone call," Darrah said.

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(credit: CBS)

Quick actions by Pirtle's co-workers and the fire department saved his life. Darrah says two of his co-workers pulled him from the flames.

Windsor Fire Service said within two minutes they had Pirtle on his way to the burn unit at North Colorado Medical Center.

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(credit: CBS)

Barely able to speak, Pirtle has already been telling Darrah he is ready to get back to work.

"My husband is very hard working and does everything in his power to support our family," she said.

Workers compensation will help with much of the medical costs, but Darrah says there have been a lot of unexpected costs.

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CBS4's Jamie Leary interviews Rachel Darrah. (credit: CBS)

On Christmas, the hospital staff all chipped in to buy Darrah gas to get home to her children as well as Christmas dinner.

Pirtle's mother has set up a GoFundMe page to help the family recover.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for OSHA told CBS4 there was no timeline for when the investigation would be complete.  Firefighters believe an industrial accident caused the portable oil and gas drilling facility to go up in flames shortly before 9 p.m.

Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn't imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.

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