Inside his Murray, Kentucky, home Jay Rogers sits comfortably in his recliner alongside fiance Tiffany Taylor and his beloved dog Roxanne.
It's a place he never thought he'd see after roughly 10 weeks of treatment and recovery at hospitals in Nashville, Tennessee. Rogers survived an explosion at Silver Trail Distillery in Marshall County on April 24.
"A beautiful day, a Friday," Rogers recalled. "Everything was going just as smooth as it could."
In fact, Kyle and coworker Jay Rodgers were discussing what a good batch they had before them.
"The still itself exploded, and it was the hot beer, the mash inside of it that we were turning into moonshine, is what actually burnt, burnt both of us. All of my burns are actually liquid and steam burns," Rogers said.
Jay found himself covered in mash, laying on the floor next to Kyle. He was able to pick himself up and then help Kyle out of the distillery.
"I remember all of it. I never did go unconscious," Rogers said. "It took a little bit for the pain to set in and I'm sure adrenaline had a lot to do with that," he said.
"I was still unclear as to what really happened until I started noticing the big doors to the distillery," he continued. "We're talking big, sliding, 16-foot doors that were blown out. And the more that I walked out out of the building, I kept passing parts of the still. And that was when I realized that it had actually exploded," Rogers added.
Multiple emergency crews and first responders rushed to the scene and took Kyle and Jay to the hospital by helicopter. Only later, weeks into Jay's recovery, did his mother tell him that Kyle had died from the injuries sustained in the explosion.
Jay remembers Kyle fondly. "You could pick on him and he could pick back. He was just a good kid," Jay said.
At 40 years of age, Jay has advanced in ways few medical professionals thought possible immediately following the explosion. In fact, doctors only gave him a 5 to 10 percent chance of survival because the explosion burned more than 80 percent of his body.
Jay attends physical therapy sessions at least three times a week and has a home health nurse visit several times a week, too.
"It's really not the skin that's stopping the motion as much as the fascia which is a connective tissue," Dr. Scott Winkler said. "We're basically kind of telling (the skin) how we want it to heal."
During the recovery process, Jay says he's gained a greater respect for people and strangers who reached out to support him.
"This has restored my faith in humanity. I will tell you that. Amazing that this many people across the world has cared about this moonshiner. Prayer works. Sorry if that offends somebody, but it does," Rogers said.
During his recovery, Jay proposed to his girlfriend — now fiancée — Tiffany Taylor.
"She's definitely been my rock through this," Jay said. "I just knew I couldn't let her go."
Tiffany recalled the first thing she whispered in Jay's ear in the hospital. "I was in his ear and said 'God can't take you away from me now. It's just not time, we're going to pray.' And all the prayers worked."
The focus for Jay now is to continue physical therapy and, in the long run, return to work one day as a professional distiller.
"My job was definitely a passion for me. It was more than a job. I didn't chose the moonshine life, the moonshine life chose me," Jay added.
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