UNC professor: Injuries sustained during explosion are more serious than expected

CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Police have filed charges against 24-year-old Joshua Daniel Edwards, the ex-student accused of setting fire to the Davie Poplar tree on UNC-Chapell Hill's campus, seriously injuring a professor.

Physics and astronomy professor Dan Reichart sustained first- and second-degree burns to his face and arms during the explosion.

While Reichart originally thought his injuries were not considered serious, he actually lost 10-11 percent of his skin, mainly on his face, lower arms, and back of his hands.

Video from witnesses showed the professor trying to stomp out the fire at the base of the tree moments before the explosion occurred.

Warning: This video may be graphic for some

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An eyewitness captured the moment the device exploded

While he planned to return to class the week following the incident, his injuries are so severe that the professor said he's done teaching for the semester and can't return until the spring.

Dan Reichart post-surgery

Credit: Dan Reichart

Reichart is participating in No-Shave November - a month-long charity campaign which helps raise cancer awareness - for the first time, and he's asking the public to help by turning his lemon into "lemonaid" and donate to cancer research.

"Help Lois (his wife) and me turn something pointless and senseless into something meaningful," he posted on his No-Shave November fundraising page. "We've donated the first $100, and we're hoping that if everyone donates something, we can turn this into $1,000 (and maybe more!) for cancer awareness and prevention."

While recovering from surgery, he was given a sweet surprise at the hospital - a bouquet of ice cream bars.

Reichart told officials he was on his way to get an ice cream bar when he came upon the fire at the Davie Poplar tree, so a nutrition team at the UNC Medical Center delivered the treats - and then some - that he wasn't able to get.

READ MORE: UNC professor injured in explosion gets sweet surprise from hospital staff

While Edwards has not been placed under arrested, police said arrest warrants have been filed for six felony charges.

Charges include:

  • Felony count of malicious use of explosives to inflict injury
  • Felony count of malicious use of explosives to damage property
  • Felony count of assembling a weapon of mass destruction
  • Felony count of setting fire to grass / grassland
  • Felony count of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury
  • Felony count of "filing a false police report

Reichart has not commented on if he intends to take legal action.

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Student Will Freeman said he saw Edwards sitting under the tree, on Thursday, moments before the fire started, adding that the suspect starting skipping away saying, "Yes, yes, yes" once flames were present.

A court date will be assigned when Edwards is formally charged.
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