A man has told how he had a miracle escape when a gas canister accidentally thrown on a bonfire caused a fireball which ‘melted his face.’
Guy McCallan (57) was thrown six feet by the blast in his garden in Wistow, near Ramsey, which caused the skin to peel instantly peel off his face and arms.
The civil servant had set fire to a cardboard box which had a gas canister inside it but escaped serious injury and without even a scar.
With temperatures reaching 255⁰C, the impact of gas canister related burns can be fatal. Internal burns are also possible, causing hidden damage for up to 48 hours after the initial burn.
Guy, who had thought the cardboard box was empty, said: “Just minutes after throwing bits onto the bonfire I was blasted off my feet.
“I lay on the ground feeling very hot and when I stood up I lifted my hand up to my forehead and the skin was just hanging off.
“The blast instantly just removed the skin, it was all hanging off like tissue paper. I think the heat just killed the skin instantly as it passed over.
“I didn’t see a flash, it was just a big noise and then I was on the grass and I remember feeling very hot.
“It was incredibly hot and it hurt a lot, it was a bit like having a blowtorch held to your head and I couldn’t believe how hot my skin remained.
“It seemed to get hotter and hotter for several hours, even when I held my wounds under water.
“I had never felt pain like it. I had some morphine jabs which did not seem to make much difference, but I’m fine now.”
Guy had been stood around six feet away from the bonfire but thankfully his wife Katie (45) sprinted over to help after seeing the explosion from a nearby field while out feeding her horses.
A rapid response vehicle was with him in under 15 minutes and he was treated by paramedics from the Magpas air ambulance service.
Medics worked on him there before he was rushed to Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon on a Saturday night in late May.
He then stayed for two nights, returned home on Monday, before heading to the specialist burns unit at Chelmsford Hospital the following day.
Guy had to return to the burns unit three times for specialist treatment but since the accident seven weeks ago he’s been left with virtually no visible scarring.
He added: “The work done by everyone has really contributed to the lack of long term damage as basically I’m now back to normal.
“I wasn’t expecting it to look like nothing has happened, there’s just a slight discolouration but that’s it.”
Medics were concerned about whether Guy could breathe as they feared he may have inhaled the hot air which could have caused his throat to swell - leaving him struggling to breathe.
They spotted black soot in his nose and mouth and he was checked every 15 minutes in hospital but thankfully he had no internal damage.
Guy added: “My arms and face swelled up over the next few days so they were cautious to make sure the same didn’t happen to my throat.
“If my throat had received the same exposure, then I could have had trouble breathing but thankfully that wasn’t the case.
“I’m just really grateful for the help I received. I was thinking while on the way to get treatment I’m so grateful everyone got to me so quickly.”
Guy had to wear a mask to protect his skin and was wrapped in specialist bandages which keep the wounds moist for a number of days after the accident so they could heal.
The couple had moved into their detached rural home in Wistow at the end of May so were clearing away rubbish boxes at the time.
A singed roughly nine square foot area of black grass remains at the field nearby to Guy’s home, reminding him of how lucky he was.
Katie, a sales manager who witnessed the shocking blast, added: “I saw Guy flying backwards so I came running as fast as I could.
“He was touching his face asking if he had plastic stuck to him, but then he realised it was his skin, and I think you kind of go into an autopilot.
“I could see all the blue lights coming and I had never been so happy to see blue lights in my life.
“The Magpas team took over and it was just such a relief, thanks to that level of medical care he received, it’s the reason he has healed so well.”
Guy and Katie today (Tuesday, May 26) met enhanced Magpas paramedic Alex Pearce for the first time since the accident. They were also joined by Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service station commander Simon Thompson.
Guy said: “It was a really good experience. I think he was as equally embarrassed as me. I said ‘it’s good to meet you again, thanks for what you did’.
“He said ‘it’s good you made a full recovery’.
“I’m just grateful for the care he and his organisation have given me.”
Guy also wants to raise awareness for how easy it is for a similar accident to happen to someone else. He added: “The opportunity for someone to get seriously hurt is massive with people going to festivals and camping.
“People are using gas canisters more and more. People do not appreciate you have to be careful. If you make a mistake you can do serious damage.”