A day tinkering on his car collection sent Jay Leno to the hospital with third-degree burns to his face and hands.
Now, the comedian is sitting down, talking about how the accident happened and his road to recovery.
The former “Tonight Show” host spoke in an interview with the “Today” show.
EXCLUSIVE: Jay Leno @jayleno opens up to @hodakotb in his first broadcast interview about the terrifying fire that caused severe burns to his face, chest and hands. pic.twitter.com/FFpreRA7u1— TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 14, 2022
Leno said that he and a friend were in his garage full of vintage cars, trying to fix a more than 100-year-old vehicle on Nov. 12.
“It was a 1907 Whtie Steam Car. The fuel line was clogged so I was underneath. It sounded clogged and I said, ‘Blow some air through the line,’ and so he did.”
Leno said after the fuel line made a noise, gas came out.
“And suddenly, boom! I got a face full of gas. And then the pilot light jumped and my face caught fire,” Leno told Hoda Kotb.
Leno explained to People magazine how the engine works: “With a steam car, you have gasoline, but you also have a vaporizer, which is heated by a pilot light to turn water into steam.”
Leno told the magazine that as soon as he felt the flames, he shut his eyes and held his breath as he tried to get out from under the car.
“I’m not a panicky guy, but I knew if I breathed in I could scorch my lungs,” he told People. “I was under the car maybe 10 seconds before Dave pulled me out. Any longer than that I could have lost my eye.”
Luckily his friend Dave Killackey was there and smothered the flames. At first, Killackey didn’t know what was going on but then jumped into action.
“And I said to my friend, I said, ‘Dave, I’m on fire.’ And Dave’s like, ‘All right.’ I said, ‘No, Dave, I’m on fire!’ And then, ‘Oh, my God.’ Dave, my friend, pulled me out and jumped on top of me and kind of smothered the fire,” Leno said.
Leno was taken to a local hospital and then transferred to Grossman Burn Center where he was treated for third-degree burns to his face, chest and hands, CNN reported.
Leno said he didn’t take any pain medication during his treatment.
“The pain is a reminder that I’m an idiot,” he told People magazine.
After a 10-day hospital stay that included skin grafts and hyperbaric chamber treatment, Leno was back on stage performing at a comedy club in Hermosa Beach, making fun of himself even before he started his set, CNN reported.
“We got two shows tonight — regular and extra crispy,” Leno told reporters and the crowd that had amassed outside the venue that night, “Today” reported.
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