BARTON, Wis. - Doctors and law enforcement agree it's a miracle a father and son are alive after a home explosion on July 23 in Washington County. They continue to recover as the family turns to the community for help, with their medical bills only expected to grow.
Augie Ridolfi, 78, and his son, Frankie, 48, have already been through eight surgeries each inside the Burn Unit at Ascension Columbia St. Mary's Hospital. They remain in critical, yet stable condition, with their family grateful for community support.
As an avid pilot, Frankie Ridolfi flew home to Wisconsin for EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh; first, making time for family in Washington County.
"He stopped at his father's house on that Friday night because...to celebrate his dad's birthday," said Linda Lindquist, family friend.
That visit would end in tragedy. An explosion tied to natural gas ignited the home while both were inside. Frankie was able to run outside while Jeff Dreher, their neighbor, ran inside to pull Augie to safety. They're now both battling third-degree burns.
"It's an absolute miracle that these two are alive, that they survived, and I definitely feel that the neighbor's help in pulling them out of this fire was one of the reasons they're surviving," said Lindquist.
Lindquist organized a pair of GoFundMe.com accounts for the Ridolfis. She said the family's overwhelmed at the response both financially and spiritually.
"They are all just feeling the love," said Lindquist. "I mean, it's, they're just so, so grateful for all the help that everyone's been coming forward with."
Without knowing just how many surgeries are still needed or how long the recovery will take, they're asking anyone that can help to do so.
"I put on a goal of $25,000, but knowing full well that that's not even gonna touch it," said Lindquist. "It really isn't."
We're told 75% of Frankie's body is covered in third-degree burns; about 40% for Augie. The hospital isn't allowing flowers or cards because they're focused on preventing infection.