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Lawton man in coma after air tank explosion

VAN BUREN COUNTY, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A Lawton man is in a coma after an air tank exploded in his face this week.

It happened at an auto garage on 64th Avenue, west of M-40 early Monday morning, and surveillance captured it all on camera.

Seeing the footage, it's amazing the man--who fills air tanks--is still alive, after laying bleeding on the ground for three hours before he was rushed to the hospital for help.

The video shows Mike Lepley walking into his family garage early Monday morning.

We're told he was filling an air tank to help a friend fix a tractor tire--when something went terribly wrong.

The metal tank exploded, hitting the ceiling--and Lepley's face.

Nearly 3 1/2 hours went by before Lepley's nephew discovered him, when he went into the garage for some tools.

Wednesday, Lepley's father John told Newschannel 3 that he's grateful his son was found when he was, and expressed concern that if more time went by, it could have been much worse.

"There's a lot of times when no one is in there for a few days," he said.

John Lepley explained that doctors say the injuries to his son are primarily to his face and head, and that they had to stabilize his brain.

The Sheriff's Department says this was a terrible accident, and the air tank was an older one without directions, which likely should have been replaced.

"Usually there is a sticker on the tank with a precaution to tell you how far to fill it," explained Sergeant David Walker, with the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department. "This tank did not have that."

Lepley was transported from Lakeview to Bronson Hospital on Tuesday, where he is still unconscious.

His family remains hopeful that the injuries did not affect his brain, but right now it's just too soon to tell.