EXCLUSIVE: Medina man who survived apartment explosion talks about heartbreaking loss of son & wife

Posted at 5:05 PM, Mar 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-10 20:30:56-05

Robert Drake continues to grapple with physical and emotional pain one month after an explosion and fire at a Medina apartment complex that took the lives of his wife and son.

"It's like a bad dream, but you wake up from it and it's still there. It's always in your head. You never forget," Drake said.

Drake suffered serious burns on more than 34 percent of his body, including on his back, stomach, arms and legs.

Doctors performed two skin grafts and Drake has been receiving physical therapy at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. He expects to be released from the hospital next week.

MORE: 60 gas leaks found after deadly explosion at Medina apartment complex

"They were my life"

During an exclusive and emotional interview on Friday, Drake struggled to hold back the tears as he talked about his love for Sheila Drake-- his wife of 19 years-- and their 18-year-old son, Jacob, who had cerebral palsy.

"They were my life," he said. "I miss them so much."

Robert said Jacob's disability never affected his friendly attitude and the teen loved to dance in his wheelchair with his mom, arm wrestle with his brother, watch NASCAR and listen to country music.

"He was so sociable, so outgoing with people that everybody would just love him," Drake said. "He taught us a lot about life."

Nightmare in Medina

In the early morning hours of February 9, an explosion inside Drake's apartment at Medina Village sent the family scrambling as the ceiling collapsed and the flames spread.

Robert, 64, and Sheila, 52, were severely burned as they desperately tried to save Jacob, who was in a hospital bed in the living room.

"I kept trying to get to Jacob and I couldn't, and Sheila was yelling for me to help her. She knew he was gone," Drake said.

The chief building official for Medina told News 5 a leak in an uncapped and unused appliance gas valve led to the deadly blast.

What if?

The family feels the tragedy should have been prevented and has hired a law firm which is planning to file a lawsuit later this month. Attorneys said the suit will name several defendants, including the owners of Medina Village.

"You think about it all day long," said Amy Priestley, Sheila's daughter. "What if? What could have been done? What could have been different? They should still be here."

Several days after the explosion, inspectors found and repaired more than 80 gas leaks at various Medina Village apartments.

This week, high levels of carbon monoxide were discovered in furnaces inside multiple apartments. The furnaces were replaced and re-inspected.

Remembering loved ones

Mike Reindl, who is Sheila's son and Jacob's half brother, said he will remember the teen as a young man who always brightened days with his smile, and will recall his mom as someone he could always go to for advice.

"I have dreams where I'm just having a simple conversation with my mom, just to wake up to find out that it's never going to happen again," Reindl said.

Drake said he's moving forward with the support of family and trying to take comfort knowing that Sheila and Jacob are together.

"She always said that she wouldn't live without him. She made sure I was going to be alright with the kids and then, she went on," he said. "She knew I loved her and I know she loved me."

RELATED: Medina inspectors find CO issues and heating outages at complex where fatal explosion took place