Donations are being gathered for Willie Owens, a Paintsville man who suffered extensive burns in a serious accident over the weekend.

According to his aunt Joanna Owens, Willie was involved in a lawnmower accident Saturday. The mower overturned, spilling gasoline that resulted in a fire. Owens rolled down the yard and into a nearby creek to extinguish the flames, but suffered burns over 58 percent of his body, approximately one-fourth of which are third-degree burns.

Owens was taken to a nearby hospital and later taken to Cabell Huntington.

Joanna Owens said that Willie’s scans show his vital organs are unaffected, but he will still require months in the hospital, particularly as he is vulnerable to infection in the early stages of recovery. As of Monday, he was put on a ventilator.

Joanna said Willie works part time at Paintsville radio stations WKLW/WSIP and is very active with the Ramey Branch Gospel Church youth group, in addition to other community groups, including the Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star. He has previously worked with the Big Sandy Area Community Action Program and Mountain Comprehensive Care.

“Willie is humble, kind and a peacemaker,” Joanna Owens said. “We really appreciate the prayers. We can feel them.”

Fellow Johnson Central High School Class of 2003 alum Kimberly Back reached out to Willie’s family and has started an online fundraiser to contribute to his medical bills and help support his two young children, ages 5 and 2, during this period. That fundraiser can be found online at, paypal.com/pools/c/85nq7yETqI.

“I have known Willie since before either of us could walk and in all my life I have never known anyone who would describe him as anything but humble, wise, loving and dependable,” Back said. “Willie and I worked together as senior class officers for the Johnson Central High School class of 2003.”

Back said this is not the first time her fellow JCHS grads pooled their resources to help a family in need. In December 2017, they started a money pool like this when a fellow classmate died. 

“Once an Eagle, always an Eagle. We do what we can for each other,” Back said.

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