TV anchor’s accident hits close to home

Published On January 3, 2013 | By Kathryn Tappen

There are many times in life when we find ourselves saying, “That could have happened to me.”

You all know what I’m talking about, and most of the time these words come off our lips upon hearing of tragic news. We breathe a sigh of relief, say a prayer and move on with our lives with a valuable lesson learned.

It was clear to me two days ago when I read an article about ESPN anchor Hannah Storm’s grill accident that this incident and scary near-encounter with death hits so close to home for so many of us.

Three weeks ago, Storm suffered first- and second-degree burns to her face, hands, chest and neck after a propane gas grill on the deck of her Connecticut home exploded. She lost roughly half her hair and her eyebrows and eyelashes were burned off in the accident.  On Tuesday, I watched Storm return to the airwaves on ABC’s telecast of the Rose Parade.

I was amazed at how beautiful she looked.  Aside from the bandage on her left hand, Storm appeared the way she usually does when I watch her on ESPN.  However, she would reveal later in the broadcast that she was wearing hair and eyelash extensions, and a makeup artist drew on eyebrows.  Pictures she posted also revealed an almost unrecognizable Storm.

But Storm’s inner beauty radiated, as it always does. She appeared to be incredibly relaxed and a bit relieved, having returned to her familiar setting alongside Josh Elliot for her fifth time hosting the Rose Parade.

I can only imagine the pain and suffering that Storm experienced in the days following her Dec. 11 accident — not to mention the daunting thoughts of never being able to return to her career and do what she loves and lives to do.

“It was like you see in a movie, it happened in a split-second,” Storm said. “A neighbor said he thought a tree had fallen through the roof, it was that loud. It blew the doors off the grill.”

It was Storm’s 15-year old daughter, also named Hannah, who remained calm and called 911.

This story hit home for me on many levels.  Like Storm, my career in television is incredibly important to me. We all would also be naïve to think that it is not a vain business. Appearance is paramount, and any imperfections to such can be detrimental. Blemishes, dry skin in the winter months, peeling lips from an allergic reaction, irritated eyes and a red nose from a nasty head cold are just a few of the uncontrollable imperfections we tend to overreact to.

But I will never again worry about those minor flaws. What Storm had to overcome just to apply simple cream and TV makeup was an overwhelming feat. Seeing the pictures of her wounds following the accident would make anyone cringe.

She’s darn lucky to be alive.

While many would be left feeling sorry for themselves, Storm used her past experiences as a journalist to put her accident in perspective for herself, her family, and her fans.

“I didn’t see my face until the next day and you wonder how it’s going to look,” she said to the New York Post.  “I was pretty shocked. But my over-arching thought was I’ve covered events with military members who have been through a lot worse than me, and they’ve come through. I kept thinking, ‘I can do this. I’m fortunate.”’

Another reason this story hit home for me is because I too prepare my family dinner on a grill outside of our home. My own mother lit the grill every night, and her mother did as well.  There are millions of us, men and women, who turn that propane gas on and expect our meal to be ready within 25 minutes.

Never again will I take that big metal grill for granted.

I couldn’t quite figure out how the explosion occurred.  After all, Storm said she turned the gas off before she reignited it.  Isn’t that all you need to do?  She later explained that because the gas is heavier than air, it sits in the area of the grill even after being turned off and especially in cold winter months. When she reignited the grill, it exploded.

Grill manufacturers advise to wait at least 15 minutes with the grill lid open to allow for any excess gas or fumes to vacate the area before you begin to reignite.

What we learned from Hannah Storm’s accident is a valuable lesson on how a simple household activity can turn deadly. As I said before, Storm is lucky to be alive.

She said she hopes to use her experience to educate people on how to properly operate and adhere to the safety precautions of propane gas grills.

It was wonderful to see Storm’s smiling face on New Year’s Day, and all of her fans look forward to her return on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” this Sunday.

And maybe we can all appreciate every single day a little bit more, because any one of us can say, “That could have happened to me.”

Comments are closed.

About The Author

Kathryn Tappen is the host of NHL Tonight on the NHL Network. Kathryn previously worked for NESN as a studio host for Bruins games and as the lead anchor for SportsDesk. Kathryn is also an athlete, as she was an Academic All-American as a member of the track and cross country teams at Rutgers. She is a former record holder in the women's 3,000 meter steeplechase.