Former ’Hound Baird burned
He was in critical condition at the Akron Burn Center.
VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT
AUSTINTOWN — A former Youngstown Steelhounds player was seriously burned Thursday evening when the lawn mower he was riding exploded.
Jason Baird, 27, of Cayuga, Ontario, was working with a private landscaping company when the accident occurred at the Westchester apartment complex on Westchester Drive, just past the intersection of Route 11 and Mahoning Avenue.
Baird’s condition is listed as critical at the Akron Burn Center.
“He was actively on the commercial riding mower when the explosion happened,” said Andrew Frost III, Austintown assistant fire chief, calling the incident “very unusual.”
Fuel was somehow involved, but Baird was not refueling the mower when the accident occurred, which is when most residential accidents occur, he said.
“There was a flash fire within the equipment and we’ve confiscated the mower,” Frost said, adding that the Occupational Health and Safety Association is investigating. Because of the investigation, he did not release the name of the company that employed Baird.
Kevin Kaminski, the SteelHounds coach the past two seasons, was told late Thursday that Baird had burns over 80 percent of his body. Friday, Kaminski said he was told the percentage was changed to between 60-65 percent.
“We’re hoping and praying it’s not higher than 60-65 percent,” Kaminski said.
Kaminski, who spends his summers in Maine and will coach the Mississippi RiverKings this fall, said doctors induced a coma to help Baird fight the pain.
The SteelHounds were ousted from the Central Hockey League June 2 and have no league affiliation. The team, the primary tenant for the Chevrolet Centre, is unlikely to take the ice this fall.
On July 11, Baird signed with the Muskegon Fury, a Michigan team in the International Hockey League.
“Everybody in the Muskegon Fury family is shocked by this news,” said Fury coach Bruce Ramsay Friday.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Jason and his family. If there’s anything that we can do as an organization, we will do it.”
He is married to Bethany Baird. They have a daughter and the family includes her two sons from her first marriage.
Baird, who began his professional hockey career seven years ago with the Cincinnati Cyclones, came to Youngstown last November as part of a trade with the Corpus Christi Rayz.
Baird played 45 games for the SteelHounds, scoring 13 goals and making 23 assists. His 36 points made him the fifth-leading scorer on the team.
Kaminski said the SteelHounds players are planning a benefit for the Baird family that will take place in late August when the coach returns to move from Poland to Mississippi.
Kaminski’s wife, Megan, has been in contact with the wives of Baird’s teammates.
“The fundraiser will be between Aug. 24-31, even if the SteelHounds aren’t playing this fall,” Kaminski said. “We hope to raise thousands and thousands of dollars for this family.”