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Boiler explosion still haunts survivors 1 year later

Ronnie Brooks and Terri Pratt have never met, but they share a bond that has forever changed their lives.

This week marks one year since a steam explosion near Soulard killed four people. For the first time since that horrific day, two survivors shared their stories exclusively with 5 On Your Side. Ronnie Brooks and Terri Pratt have never met, but they share a bond that has forever changed their lives.

The Story of Ronnie Brooks

Nikki and Ronnie Brooks believe in the power of prayer. They believe one day Ronnie will be healed from the injuries he sustained in the explosion. But right now, it’s a long and slow journey.

"I have my days where I'm completely defeated,” Ronnie said from his Florissant home. "It's day by day. I'm trying to get myself closer to being normal.”

Ronnie went from an active, hardworking husband and father to a full-time medical patient. His wife Nikki spends her days acting as a nurse for her husband.

"Only by God's grace is how I've gotten through it," Nikki Brooks said. "It's been tough, I'm going to be honest, it hasn't been easy."

The Brooks family had their lives rocked one year ago.

"I get chills thinking about it,” Ronnie said.

Ronnie had just arrived to work at Loy Lange Box Company that Monday morning.

"I was clocking in and boom, I was on the ground. I didn't know what happened,” Ronnie said.

Ronnie was walking near the boiler room where the steam explosion took place. The explosion launched a pressure vessel into the air like a rocket. It traveled more than 500 feet before crashing down on Faultless Healthcare Linen. In all, four people died and Ronnie was critically injured

"I was trying to get up. I didn't know I had cinder blocks and debris all over me. I couldn't move,” Brooks said.

And he couldn't see because of blood in his eyes. Brooks said water started gushing in from a broken water main. Thinking he was going to drown, Ronnie started to pray.

"Keep me alive and don't let me drown in this pool of water. Get me to my kids and family,” Ronnie recalled praying.

He suffered a head contusion, broken eye socket and a broken left femur.

“I lost 60 percent of my tissue in my left thigh,” Brooks said.

He spent 50 days in the hospital and has had seven surgeries to date. Perhaps the deepest scar is the one you can't see, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"It's been a struggle but I'm trying to keep a happy face. Especially for my kids and my wife,” Brooks said.

He knows he’s fortunate to be alive.

"I'm just going to keep on wishing for the best for myself and keep on striving day by day,” Ronnie said.

"Our life has changed but it is not over," Nikki added.

His family has started a GoFundMe page to help with the cost of treatment.

The story of Terri Pratt

It's often said that time heals all wounds. Terri Pratt, needs more time.

“Sometimes when you close your eyes, I can just see it all over again," she said. "I can see all the fire trucks, all the police.”

Pratt’s life was spared on April 3, 2017, but was forever changed.

"It's hard when there are only four of you in a room and you are the only one that survives and there is nothing you can do to help them,” Pratt said.

Pratt is the Human Resources manager at Faultless. She was helping three new hires start their first day at Faultless when the pressure vessel came crashing through the ceiling.

"It came in so hard and so fast. I had no idea what it was and what had happened. It sounded like a bomb,” Pratt said.

Christopher Watkins, Tonya Gonzalez and Clifford Lee were killed inside Faultless. Pratt was the last person to see them alive. She just stepped out of the room where the three new hires were sitting when all hell broke loose.

"It was just a lot of pressure. Things were falling out of the ceiling on me and you could hear the electrical stuff popping. It was just dusty, chaos," she said. "I'm just screaming for them just to see if they are OK, yelling for them to get out. Get out.”

No answer then, and no answer now.

"Why them and not me?” Pratt said.

Terri Pratt needs more time.

"I am here. But they're not and that hurts, it still hurts because they don't get to be with their families, you know? it hurts and I can't change that."

Pratt has been left with emotional scars. She said she’s undergoing therapy once a week to help her cope.

Both Pratt and Brooks have filed a lawsuit against several companies they believe are responsible for the explosion. The families of those killed have also filed suit.

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