SAVANNAH, Ga. Malcolm Frazier fought for more than six months to heal the burns covering 85 percent of his body, while his father sang hymns beside his hospital bed.
Frazier's battle ended Friday when he died at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, nearly 200 days after he was gravely injured in the Feb. 7 explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery near Savannah. His passing brought the death toll from the blast to 14.
"There wasn't a dry eye on the unit this morning," said Dr. J.R. Shaver, the doctor who tried to revive Frazier when his heart stopped beating. "He'd been close to death many times, but this time he was about as severe as he could be."
Frazier, 47, of Savannah worked as a floor manager in the refinery's packing department, which took the brunt of the explosion when sugar dust ignited like gunpowder beneath the refinery's silos.
A co-worker pulled Frazier, who had worked at the plant for about four months, from the blast wreckage. Suffering deep burns on his face, chest and back, he was among the most seriously injured who survived the explosion.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration last month proposed $8.7 million in fines against Sugar Land, Texas-based Imperial Sugar. The company is contesting OSHA's findings.
Other than a few quick trips home to Savannah, Frazier's parents stayed in Augusta so they could visit him daily and offer him words of comfort and prayer though most of his last months were spent in a medically induced coma.
"I go in once a day and pray for him," his mother, Hattie Frazier, told The Associated Press in a March interview. "To see him open his eyes, and he can't say anything, it's too much to go through. But I let him know I'll be here as long as he's here."
No one answered the phone at the home of Frazier's parents Friday.
Richard Frazier would visit his son's bedside four times a day, often singing hymns, Shaver said.
The doctor said Frazier seemed to be improving last week. His burns were healing nicely and he came out of sedation enough to make eye contact with his parents, nod his head and gesture with his arms.
By Monday, doctors discovered Frazier had contracted a potentially deadly blood infection, Shaver said. They managed to revive him after he went into cardiac arrest Tuesday, he said. Frazier had survived several infections of the same type previously, but his body couldn't fight it off this time.
"Last night, the whole family sang 'Amazing Grace' in the room while we were working to save him," Shaver said.
Finally, Frazier's heart stopped beating and the medical staff turned off the ventilator that had helped him breathe, Shaver said.
Frazier's father, he said, stood by the bed and caressed his son's head as he told him, "You fought for your Daddy. You fought so hard."