Fire ‘hugging my body’: Victim’s boat explosion horror

 

A woman horrifically burnt in a Hawkesbury River party boat explosion said she followed her mum's advice as she rolled on the ground in a maniacal attempt to extinguish the flames that engulfed her.

Karoline Santana was on the deck at the rear of the 28-foot Bertram flybridge cruiser taking pictures of the setting sun on the river at Brooklyn when, "bang, suddenly there was this massive loud explosion and fire was hugging my body," she said from her hospital bed in the burns unit of the Royal North Shore Hospital.

"I remember rolling on the floor thinking only about what my mum always taught me, that if one day I, for any reason I would be set on fire to roll on the floor until the fire was gone.

Karoline Santander, 25, from Sydney’s Inner West, is one of six people who suffered severe burns to their bodies when the boat she was partying on exploded on the Hawkesbury River over Easter. Supplied
Karoline Santander, 25, from Sydney’s Inner West, is one of six people who suffered severe burns to their bodies when the boat she was partying on exploded on the Hawkesbury River over Easter. Supplied

"When I opened my eyes and looked down to my legs I saw the most horrific images; white and burned skin hanging from my legs.

"Someone got me up and I remember running, screaming, begging for help, all I could scream was 'water, water, please it's burning, give me some water.'

"It's something you would never expect in your whole life."

Karoline Santander, pictured bottom, right, was taking pictures with friends on the boat when it burst into flames. Picture: Go Fund Me
Karoline Santander, pictured bottom, right, was taking pictures with friends on the boat when it burst into flames. Picture: Go Fund Me

Karoline, who runs a beauty business, K Beauty Studio, in Sydney's Inner West, has been besieged with flashbacks of the Easter Sunday explosion on the vessel chartered to celebrate her friend Mirka Tothova's 30th birthday.

 

Mirka Tothov is currently at Royal North Shore hospital after a boat exploded at the Hawkesbury River on Easter Sunday. Source: Supplied
Mirka Tothov is currently at Royal North Shore hospital after a boat exploded at the Hawkesbury River on Easter Sunday. Source: Supplied

 

Mirka Tothov prior to the explosion. Source: Supplied,
Mirka Tothov prior to the explosion. Source: Supplied,

 

They were two of the six who suffered between 30 and 60 per cent burns to their bodies when the vessel burst into flames as the skipper turned over the engine after a pit stop to refuel at the marina in Brooklyn.

NSW police said today specialist engineering officers from Marine Area Command had examined the vessel and are awaiting results.

Six people were taken to hospital with burns when the 28 foot cruiser exploded into flames at Brooklyn Marina on the Hawkesbury River. Picture: Greg Manning
Six people were taken to hospital with burns when the 28 foot cruiser exploded into flames at Brooklyn Marina on the Hawkesbury River. Picture: Greg Manning

"A crime scene was established at the time and the Marine Area Command are investigating the cause and circumstances surrounding the incident," a police spokesman said.

Three boat party revellers including Ms Tothova remain in hospital with burns mainly to their legs, hands, arms, stomachs, and faces.

"Things keep changing every day, it's been three weeks since I got into hospital and three weeks of different types of pain to overcome," said Ms Santander.

"We have frequent dressing changes and a few skin grafts, I can't describe how painful it all is.

Specialist engineering officers from Marine Area Command have examined the vessel and are awaiting results. Picture: Greg Manning.
Specialist engineering officers from Marine Area Command have examined the vessel and are awaiting results. Picture: Greg Manning.

'I remember taking photos of the golden sun when we stopped to refuel, then someone said, 'let's get back in to take a group photo,' and suddenly I was on fire and a lady was coming with some water to throw at us."

Mirka, who runs a health food shop in Sydney, said she rues the boat party that has left her suffering crippling nightmares.

 

Mira Tothova says she can’t get the smell of burning flesh out of her nose. Picture: Supplied
Mira Tothova says she can’t get the smell of burning flesh out of her nose. Picture: Supplied

 

"We have photos from the day, everything looked so nice, but I can't look at those photos," she said from hospital.

"Anything to do with boats, water and sunny day brings back nightmares I still can't get the smell of burnt flesh out of my nose.
"I've been pushing forward trying to be as strong as I can you can't be weak in times like this but I really want to recover and go home.

"I've had skin grafting done to my stomach and legs still waiting if I need more grafting done to my arm. I'm just in constant pain all the time even if they give me drugs.

 

 

"All I remember is pushing off the engine lid that had exploded on top of me and it was on fire. My hands were burnt from trying to put out the petrol fire on my skin and my boyfriend was patting out fire on my hair and jeans.

"I can't stop crying."

A fundraiser is being organised by friends for the victims on May 8 at Sokol Sports club on Grattan Crescent, Frenchs Forest. Details can be found here.

You can also donate at the victims' Go Fund Me page

Originally published as Fire 'hugging my body': Victim's boat explosion horror

Karoline Santander rolled on the ground to extinguish flames that engulfed her body when the boat she was partying no exploded. Picture: Go Fund Me page.
Karoline Santander rolled on the ground to extinguish flames that engulfed her body when the boat she was partying no exploded. Picture: Go Fund Me page.
Karoline Santander, pictured bottom, centre looking back over shoulder, was celebrating friend Mirka Tothova’s birthday (centre) when their boat exploded on the Hawkesbury River. Picture: Go Fund Me
Karoline Santander, pictured bottom, centre looking back over shoulder, was celebrating friend Mirka Tothova’s birthday (centre) when their boat exploded on the Hawkesbury River. Picture: Go Fund Me


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