While many people celebrate Valentine’s Day with dinner and a movie, one local couple is spending Cupid’s day — also their anniversary — in a hospital.
Sheila and Robert Drake of Medina remain in critical condition at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland following an early morning explosion and fire Thursday at Medina Village Apartments that claimed the life of their 18-year-old special-needs son, Jacob, and displaced eight families.
Robert and Sheila have been married about 20 years, said Sheila’s son, Josh Reindl.
The family has lived in Medina for four years, he said, after moving from the west side of Cleveland.
Between Robert and Sheila, they have seven surviving children who live in Northeast Ohio.
The family — along with the rest of the tenants of the apartment building at 451 Springbrook Drive — lost everything, said Reindl, 28, who was working the third shift at Sandridge Food Corp. in Medina at the time of the fire.
Reindl said his sister, Amy Reindl-Priestly, came to Medina from her home in West Virginia on Thursday just hours after the fire and has been at the hospital with their mother and stepfather.
Funeral arrangements for Jacob have not been confirmed, Reindl said, because family members are waiting for Sheila and Robert’s health to improve.
Sheila is sedated and has a tube helping her breathe while Robert periodically has spoken with family members. Doctors have told family members that the Drakes will be in the hospital for at least one month, Reindl said.
The couple was seriously burned trying to save Jacob, he said.
“We’re just taking it one day at a time,” he said. “You never expect it to happen to you.”
The blast blew the clothes off Sheila, who was the primary caregiver for Jacob, Reindl said.
In the parking lot, Reindl said, Robert gave Sheila a shirt to wear on that frigid Thursday morning.
Robert, a machine operator at Jacobson Manufacturing LLC in Medina, had been working to pay for Jacob’s medical bills, Reindl said.
A Medina County Sheriff’s Office deputy came to Sandridge in the early hours Thursday to tell Reindl about the explosion and fire.
“Your parents were in an explosion,” Reindl remembers being told.
Not having a vehicle, Reindl said he ran from work to the apartment. The building was still on fire when he arrived after 5:30 a.m.
Reindl said he is having a hard time coming to terms with the loss of his brother.
After serving in the Marine Corps for four years, he said going to the apartment less than an hour after the blast was worse than anything else he’s seen in two tours overseas.
“It’s something out of a horror movie.”
Jacob had cerebral palsy and was confined to a bed. He enjoyed watching YouTube videos of cops and fast cars. One of his favorite movies was “Fast and Furious,” Reindl said.
Since the fire, Reindl has moved in with a friend in Medina.
A GoFundMe account with a $10,000 goal was set up Friday. As of Monday evening, $7,465 had been raised to go toward funeral and medical expenses.
Still under investigation
According to the Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office, the cause of the blast is under investigation. The Medina Police Department and Medina Fire Department are assisting with the investigation.
Although Columbia Gas said last week there was no problem with its lines, the marshal’s office said a natural gas explosion cannot be eliminated, which sometimes occurs on the interior of a building.
In a statement Thursday, Columbia Gas said: “Our natural gas main lines and service lines were not the source of this incident. Our crews conducted a thorough investigation of our natural gas main and service lines that serve the area and confirmed that they are safe. We will continue to support authorities investigating the incident as they complete their investigation.”
Contact reporter Ashley Fox at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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