(KYTX) - It was a cool March morning in 2006. Billy Jack McDaniel, like usual, was perched high at top an oil rig close to Nacogdoches. In the blink of an eye, something we wrong. Gas began to blow out of the well and a spark set off a huge explosion.
"And I watched it come get me," remembers Billy Jack McDaniel, "there was no where for me to go. You have the geronimo line and this kind of stuff but that's the same kind of technology that's been there since 1940. And I simply could not get to it. I related to trying to thread a needle when you are in a hornets nest. It's just impossible. I was right where the blues change into orange. Beautiful, it is a beautiful site. But it was killing me. I watched my skin melt. I know that's gruesome. But it's the truth. I watched my skin melt and I finally just welcomed death. I was just praying to die at one point."
For 15 seconds Billy Jack stood in a flame close to 2000 degrees. Billy Jack was burned over 95 percent of his body. No one gave him a chance!
"When you're burnt 40% you are a miracle if you live," says Billy Jack, "I was burnt over 95%. Even if my skin injuries didn't kill me surely I inhaled it. And so that's what they said, if his skin doesn't kill him his lungs are going to be toast so he's going... either way. But if he wants to live God... the only two things he's got going for him he's in great shape and if God wants him to live, he'll live."
Billy Jack and wife A'Leta met as teenagers. It was the love for his wife and his daughter Carney that, at least at first, kept him fighting.
"My life didn't flash before my eyes," says Billy Jack, I didn't have an epiphany, none of that, it was my wife and child. That was all that I could see and I just wanted to tell them bye."
Since that day nothing has been easy. More than 130 surgeries. Covered in skin 4 times. The road they have traveled has been long, painful and full of ups and downs. But now more than 8 years later both Billy Jack and A'Leta say their marriage and family is as strong as ever. It would ultimately be faith that Billy Jack and his wife would lean on to make it day by day by day. It's a story they hope will inspire others to face challenges in their lives.
"After I got hurt I realized I couldn't do it on my own," says Billy Jacks, "something I should have realized many years ago. My faith grew. My marriage grew even though we were in a caregiver patient relationship my marriage was getting stronger. My child was getting stronger. And looking back there was so many times God was just holding us so close or we really wouldn't have made it.
I'm human," say A'leta McDaniel. "The human part of me doesn't want to do those things. I don't want to function. I don't want to get up and do for my family like I need to a lot of times. So I have to remove me as a human out of it and I have to let God take over and I have to be submissive to Him because that is where my strength comes from. 06:31
"And now the Billy Jack that is sitting here is ten times the man that Billy Jack would have ever been," says Billy Jack. Maybe not physically but in my faith, mentally. The way I see my child, my wife, my purpose in life. And that's what I really challenge people to do and understand that you can but you can't do it by your self. You can do it. it's not going to be easy, even with God it's not going to be easy. But He will bring you through it if you let Him.
Clint Yeatts, CBS 19 News