Family seeks to keep burn victim's memory alive



Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 14 at 11:39 AM

Jud Winters died Saturday

BOISE -- The young Nampa man who caught fire at his home earlier this month died Saturday after suffering a collapsed lung and kidney failure at the University of Utah burn center.

His family is back in the Treasure Valley today after a long and difficult month.

Jud Winters had just set up his own tattoo studio in the house his grandmother raised him in.

His family says Jud could do anything he put his mind to, and now they're doing everything they can to keep his memory alive.

It was a small birthday gathering on Dec. 6 with a bonfire when a terrible accident changed everything.

"The fire reached up the gas can and blew up, and he lit on fire, and his friends had him stop drop and roll, and then he was out for awhile," said Lauren Lane, Jud's girlfriend.

Lauren was away on an errand and came back to a raging fire and Jud who was in shock.

"He was really, really burnt, but he still had some of his hair at first, and he ran into the burning garage and just totally torched himself again, and he had no hair and his skin was falling off," said Lauren Lane.

Jud was trying to save the house and his prized Volkswagen Beetle.

When he did get medical attention, he was sent immediately to the Salt Lake City burn unit where for 21 days his family kept a vigil at his side.

"It's just hard because you can imagine the kind of pain that someone would be in with an injury that severe," James Williams, Jud's brother.

Jud could not speak, but he still communicated.

"And he had nodded that he loved us and that he remembered what happened and he knew he was in the hospital, and we just old him everything was OK, everything was OK at home, and we just needed him to get better and get some rest, and he would nod to us," said James Williams.

"I have two really good memories -- one was I was squeezing his toes and he kept responding to me touching his toes and he totally just sat up and his arms were straight out and he tried to hug me, it was really sweet," said Lauren Lane.

But Saturday Jud passed away.

"Me, my mother and his girlfriend Lauren were able to be with him in his final moments and he passed peaceably, I think he's in a better place now and he's not hurting anymore," said James Williams.

But those who shared so much with this giving, ambitious young man are already missing him.

"I'm gonna miss always having someone there for me, my brother for me, someone I can call and talk to who understands me completely," said James Williams.

"He was my hero, he just taught me everything, he taught me how to snowboard and ski and water ski and he taught me a lot about responsibility and money, he was just a really good guy," said Lauren Lane.

Jud's family and friends will be getting memorial tattoos to commemorate his short life. They're also working out funeral arrangements.

According to Jud's family he did not have health insurance and his medical bills are in the millions of dollars. They're also concerned about funeral costs.

If you'd like to help the Winters' family, an account has been set up for him at local Wells Fargo Bank branches. Just ask for the Jud Winters fund.