A Potton man who escaped to the country has told of his miracle escape when a gas canister accidentally thrown on to a bonfire caused a fireball which ‘melted his face.’
Only weeks after moving to his new home in Ramsey, Guy McCallan, 57, was thrown six feet by the blast in his garden as superhot 250c gases blasted his face and arms causing the skin to peel off instantly.
The civil servant had unwittingly set fire to a cardboard box which had a gas canister inside it but escaped serious injury and without even a scar.
Guy said: “Just minutes after throwing bits onto the bonfire I was blasted off my feet.
“I was 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.”
Guy had been standing 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.
He then stayed for two nights, returned home 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 freak accident so they could heal.
The couple had moved into their detached £600,00 rural home in Ramsey, Cambs., 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.”
Magpas Air Ambulance is a emergency medical charity who give life-saving pre-hospital care to patients in the east of England.
This week, Guy met the Magpas paramedic who attended the scene to help treat his burns on May 29.
Paramedic Alex Pearce, 28, said treating Guy’s burns quickly stopped the burning process and gave him the best chance of minimal scarring.
He said: “Guy had first and second degree burns to his forehead and arms and when we arrived he was in the bathroom.
“We checked his airways as that’s probably the most life threatening thing but thankfully that was fine.
“Cooling the burns quickly is best as the skin continues to burn afterwards so it stops the process developing.”
The paramedic then wrapped Guy’s burns in cling film and said that it was great to see him looking so well after the traumatic incident.
Alex said: “It was great to see how well Guy has recovered, especially as he has minimal scarring.
“With burns they can be very traumatising psychology if you left with lots of scarring so that is really pleasing that it hasn’t happened here.”
Magpas are the oldest air ambulance in the country and have been running since 1971 thanks to donations from the public.
They are based at RAF Wyton in Huntingdon, Cambs., open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are thankfully stationed just 10 minutes from Guy’s house.
A paramedic and a doctor always attend call outs together and can offer an advanced level of care.
Cambridgeshire fire and rescue station commander Simon Thompson also issued a warning to the public about the dangers of gas canisters.
He said: “This was a complete accident but it was a simple mistake which was made and something which was unforeseen.
“With it being camping season people need to store their gas canisters in appropriate places, out of direct sunlight, and make sure the gas is drained properly out of appliances.”