BALTIMORE, Md. (WUSA9) -- The survivor of a bizarre suicide attack on an Ocean City church just before Thanksgiving gave her first face-to-face interview to WUSA9 Tuesday, recalling how a deranged man who had soaked himself in gasoline and set himself on fire burst into the church's food pantry, grabbed her by the right arm, and told her he would not let her escape.


Forty-two-year-old Dana Truitt was able to knock the burning man to the floor and run, but she suffered serious burns to her head, neck and arm. Truitt is still recovering from the November 26th attack on the St. Paul's By the Sea Episcopal Church in Ocean City.

Pastor David Dingwall was killed in the resulting fire which badly damaged the landmark church. The attacker also died. He was John Sterner, an Ocean City drifter, who had received help at the food pantry known as the Shepherd's Crook. However, Truitt said Sterner had been escorted out of the pantry on some previous visits for being openly drunk and disruptive.

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"He grabbed me," Truitt said. "He just held on to me and said I ain't getting out. "He says, '"B----, you ain't getting out of here.' I says 'watch me' and I knocked him down and I got outside."

Truitt said her glasses melted during the attack and she remembers little after being loaded into an ambulance and having charred clothing cut from her body.

Truitt said she volunteered at the Shepherd's Crook at least three days a week because the church helped her with food and clothing when she first came to Ocean City looking for work in 2009.

"I wanted to help back," she said.

Truitt works as a motel housekeeper and lives with her fiance. She is the mother of an adult daughter.

Her recovery has been a lonely one because her family cannot afford extended trips for multi-day visits to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital where she is still being treated.

Full recovery is expected to take as long as two years.

Truitt's employer, motel operator Spiro Buas, has set up a fund to assist Truitt.

The public can help by sending a check to the Dana Truitt Donation Fund, C/O Bank of Ocean City, P.O. Box 150, Ocean City, Md. 21843, or by dropping off a contribution at any Bank of Ocean City branch. Donations may also be made an online at aspecial link created at her employer's site,www.ocrooms.com.

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