A young Colorado Springs boy was badly burned after he put his foot onto what geologists are calling a patch of coal waste.
Matt Bershinski received second- and third-degree burns while he was playing in the Golden Hills Park.”He started screaming and no one really knew what was going on,” Jennifer Elliot told KRDO. Firefighters said the ground where the boy burned himself looked like quicksand. Geologists said, however, that it was coal waste that had reached temperatures of 800 degrees.They first suspected the heat originated in mine shafts below the ground. Mining experts and geologists ruled that out but found a 2-foot-deep layer of coal dust. The sunshine caused the waste to spontaneously combust.Al Amundson of the state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety says coal is constantly oxidizing and can ignite if the heat from oxidization is not carried away by wind. Officials believe the dust was dumped by workers from a mine that closed in 1957.A friend of the boy’s family told KRDO Bershinski is scheduled for surgery on both feet in Denver on Wednesday.The Parks Department plans to cover the coal waste with a thick cap of soil. – tdc