Dr. Ashok Kumar awoke from a drugged sleep to a bitter taste of smoke, and screamed to be rescued from a swift hospital fire that killed four other patients.
“All I know is I woke up and I didn’t so much smell the smoke, I tasted it and felt it in my mouth,” Kumar said Sunday from his hospital bed in the intensive care ward of the Southside Regional Medical Center.
The cardiologist, who had been hospitalized for pneumonia, was in stable condition after suffering smoke inhalation in the fire.
The fire Saturday night also injured four other people and forced the evacuation of a portion of the busy hospital. The cause was unknown, but firefighters were investigating whether a patient was smoking in the room where the fire began.
The fire broke out about 9:10 p.m. in a female patient’s room two doors away from Kumar’s. That patient burned to death, and the other victims appeared to have died from smoke inhalation, said fire Capt. T.C. Hairston. All of the victims appeared to be elderly.