John Wilkinson survived a devastating house explosion three weeks ago. He does not remember much of what happened and he said he is grateful for that.
On Thursday night, he shared his story for the first time, exclusively with NBC Connecticut.
“It's completely unbelievable, I’m surprised anything survived,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson’s friend, Tony Fratino, was at the home with his 9-year-old son, trying to help Wilkinson fix a propane leak. Seconds later, the home blew up and Fratino never made it out.
“It was very painful to have lost Tony as a friend. … That was tough,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson nearly lost his life when that explosion leveled his New Milford home.
“Somebody had their hands around me that night, no question about it. ... I was meant to stay,” Wilkinson added.
He has moved from the hospital to a rehabilitation center after suffering injuries including burns, a collapsed lung and broken bones.
“But I’ve still got a good knee, and I can keep up with my kids,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson does not recall much about that night on Sunny Valley Road and he felt thankful for that.
“I don't want to remember the pain or suffering or hearing me scream … seeing the house gone,” he said.
It was also tough for Wilkinson to learn there was nothing left of his home and that he lost almost everything he owned.
“I’ve got my wife. I’ve got my kids. The house is just nails and wood. We can build another house. … My home is where my family is,” he added.
Wilkinson said he is anxious to get back to his two young boys and pregnant wife, who’s due in a few weeks.
“They need me to get up and get going. I can’t afford to wallow in the grief and sadness of it,” he said.
The grief and sadness has given him a new appreciation for life, a life that was almost taken away.
“It was a terrible accident, it was a tragedy, but we're not going back to it. We're going ahead,” Wilkinson said.
He should be out of the rehabilitation center by the time his baby is born and the family plans to rebuild their home.
The 9-year-old boy who was injured is also out of the hospital.