BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- "And I twist the positive part of the battery charger to get a better connection," said Hillvue Heights Church Pastor Steve Ayers. "When that happens it throws a spark and when that happens I hear a swishing sound and then BOOM! There's a ball of fire that has instantly consumed me."
The blast shredded the skin on Steve's hands, but what he didn't know at the time, is that it had also shredded the skin on 62-percent of his body.
"And all I could see at that moment, Gene, was my hands! So I go to the front of the boat and I let Elizabeth. She comes down immediately."
"I looked at her and I said, 'I have blown myself up! Somethin's happened to my hands.' Course she can see my whole body. Well, luckily she's a nurse,so she goes immediately into nurse mode."
Elizabeth led Steve to their pickup half-a-mile away, then took off for the Emergency Room at the Medical Center in Bowling Green, phoning her brother, surgeon Dr. William Moss.
"Whenever I would make contact," said Dr. Moss, "I would hear him screaming, and that was sort of like my vital sign. He was awake, alert, and could talk, and had airway. "
"But they drove up and Steve's smiling in the truck, hands up like this. And so we get him out of the truck."
"When he got into the Emergency Room he continued that smile on his face and just talkin' to people. And to this day people are still just amazed."
Steve credits an incredible rush of adrenaline, not knowing just how badly he was burned, and the pain relief medication he got, for his ability to talk with the crew flying him to Vanderbilt.
"It was a beautiful day to fly, though. It really was. It was a gorgeous day this happened, so, I'm up in the copter and I'm seein' all these places. There's Portland and there's Gallatin and I'm seein' all the places that I've preached to."
Steve didn't lose consciousness until he got to Gallatin. Then he woke up in the burn intensive care unit.
Despite Steve being in such good shape, his wife, Elizabeth, says the first two weeks at Vandy were touch and go.
"We only had about, I would say 5 minutes a day that Steve was of clear, maybe partially clear-mindedness because it is so painful," Elizabeth said, "you have to keep someone on pain medication regimen so high. Steve also was in the point, the first 72 hours, his kidneys were shutting down."
80-percent of the people who are burned over 60-percent of their bodies, do not survive. But Steve did. It was a near-death experience, complete with a visit to the afterlife.
"There was a moment of pain where I really knew I was just in the presence of the Lord."
Steve tells us about that experience, and how it has affected his preaching, in Part II of my special report... "Baptism by Fire."