Woman burned in Ocean City church fire shares story

BALTIMORE - Three weeks after a fire in an Ocean City church that left two people dead, a survivor is telling her story.

Dana Truitt suffered third-degree burns over a quarter of her body, and she's still recovering at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

"I really didn't know how much pain I was in until I came up here and I woke up here," Truitt said, "I don't remember nothing."

The fire that gutted St. Paul's By The Sea Church claimed the life of its beloved priest and that of the suicidal man who sparked it by dousing his body with gasoline and setting himself on fire.

Truitt was volunteering there, helping prepare for the Thanksgiving dinner, when John Sterner walked in fully engulfed in flames.

"When I turned around, there stood John at the door fully on flame of fire and came on in.  He just came on in and grabbed my arm and that was it."

Truitt displays the arm with its skin graft that was burned along with 23 percent of her body.

The 42-year old asked that we conceal her face from our camera to hide the burns, bandages and feeding tube she lives with today.

"If this medicine works on my face, I won't need no skin graft or nothing.  I get to go home the 23rd, but it's going to be a long haul---they said between one to two years... It'll take that long to heal, but I don't care though.  I thank God that I'm here.  I don't care how long it takes me."

Ironically, the same church targeted by the arsonist saved Dana and her daughter from the streets four years ago.          

She returned to help others, like John Sterner, after she got back on her feet.          

She had planned to wed her hometown boyfriend the same week of the fire.

"I thank God every day for letting me see another day.  As soon as I get home from here, we're going to go ahead and get married... as soon as I go home… as soon as I get home."

Truitt says she was wearing her engagement ring on the day of the fire, and she hasn't seen it since, but she hopes it's stored somewhere with her burnt clothing and other belongings.

Print this article Back to Top