Comedian Jay Leno recently appeared on the “Today” show to discuss the accident that left him with burns on his face, chest, and hands.
Leno was injured when flames erupted while working on his 1907 White Steam Car on Nov. 12. He stayed at the Grossman Burn Center for 10 days for treatment of third-degree burns and was released Nov. 22, with doctors expecting him to make a full recovery.
The former “Tonight Show” host explained the events of the accident in an interview with “Today” show host Hoda Kotb, which airs in full on Dec. 14. Leno said he was working on the White with friend Dave Killackey when the accident happened.
“The fuel line was clogged so I was underneath it,” Leno said in the interview. “And I said, ‘Blow some air through the line,’ and so he did.”
“Suddenly, boom, I got a face full of gas,” Leno continued, “And then the pilot light jumped and my face caught on fire.” Steam cars use a pilot light to ignite their fuel, which is used to heat water in a boiler, turning it into steam to propel the vehicle.
Killackey pulled Leno out from under the car and smothered the fire. The comedian was then rushed to the hospital with what Killackey described in the interview as “horrific” burns. Killackey called 911, and doctors told him to go to a burn center, but he drove home instead. He then went to the burn center.
Leno wasn’t concerned about any permanent cosmetic damage. “When you look like me you don’t really worry about what you look like, ” he said. “If I’m George Clooney, that’s going to be a huge problem, but they said it would be alright.”
Some reconstruction was required, including around one ear, but Leno noted that doctors “saved all of the original parts.” He also spent eight hours a day in a hyperbaric chamber as part of the treatment, which he described as a “glass coffin.”
In the interview, Leno looks to be fully healed. Images shown by the “Today” show during the interview show the extent of the damage at its worst.
After his stay in the burn center, Leno was able to resume his routine of public appearances and standup comedy after being released.
“The most expensive part of the operation was the gasoline,” he quipped. “We’re in California! It’s seven bucks a gallon!”
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