A contractor who received burns and other injuries in Regina's refinery explosion last fall and has been battling stress since then says he'll never forget what happened that day.

On October 6, 2011, Shawn Farrell was just metres from the blast site in a section of the refinery that processes diesel fuel.

Investigators say the cause of the explosion was accidental, resulting from a corroded pipe that leaked flammable gas. A spark, possibly static electricity, ignited the flammable material, setting off the fire and explosion that injured 36 workers and caused $100 million worth of damage.

"We heard the equipment and the pipes start rattling ... it started to get really, really loud," he said. "All of a sudden, it was like a dull orange. Right away I knew what was happening. I knew we were coming into something that was really serious."

Seconds later, there was a "terrifying, whooshing noise" and a fireball, and Farrell lost consciousness.

"When I woke up, I couldn't see three feet in any direction around me," Farrell said. "I was covered in flames laying face down on the concrete. I could smell my own hair and my flesh and everything burning. I managed to crawl out of there after a while, after taking refuge behind a garbage can."

Thirteen people, including Farrell, went to hospital.

He recalled seeing hair melting off the head of a female co-worker and the sheer chaos unfolding around him in the minutes after the blast. Some breathed in superheated air and burned their lungs, not realizing how severe their injuries were.

Farrell received burns to his face and ears, and suffered hearing loss — he wears hearing aids now — fractured disks and numbness in his legs.

Farrell said he has also been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

Originally from Harbour Grace, Nfld., Farrell is currently in Edmonton, living on Worker's Compensation.

"The trauma, I don't think I'll ever get over it," he said. "When we go to work in the morning and kiss our loved ones goodbye," he said. "We don't expect to go in and say goodbye for the rest of our lives."

 

With files from Dani Mario