2007_07_gregorymccull.jpgThe family of the tow truck driver who was right on top of the steam pipe that exploded in Midtown spoke about 21-year-old Gregory McCullough's progress. His mother, Tanya McCullough-Stewart, told the NY Times he had opened his eyes for the first time last week, "They can’t tell us if he’ll be O.K. because his injuries are too severe. He is still in a coma but the nurses said he can hear us. So I sing to him and I know he’s listening. I know he can hear me.”

McCullough, who also attended classes at John Jay College and studied karate when not working, suffered burns over 80% of his body, and doctors put him into a medically induced coma. It's estimated that the heat of the steam from the 83-year-old pipe was at least 400 degrees. One person who helped him, Junior Suarez, said that he hasn't been the same since July 18: “I ran up to him and grabbed him. “He fell into my arms, and his skin was falling off. He was just screaming, and I felt the heat from his body. I’ve never seen someone in that much pain.” Suarez managed to get a phone number from McCullough and called a cousin.

McCullough-Stewart said that watching doctors perform procedures has been unbearable, because "it’s so hard to see him in pain and not be able to take it away.” The family says that reporters and strangers have essentially stalked them, at their home, on the roads, and at New York Hospital, necessitating their church to donate its security staff to guard their home and McCullough's hospital room.

As for McCullough's prognosis, "Doctors told the family that they needed to observe how well he was healing before deciding on long-term treatment, but because he was young and in such good physical shape, his body was responding well, his family said." Treatment could cost more than $1 million. And today, the family will announce a lawsuit against Con Ed.

Photograph of the red tow truck by sidewalk_story on Flickr