'It was really scary': Boys recall fire, explosion that burned them

Published: Thursday, Nov. 29 2012 10:29 p.m. MST

Tyler Bergman, 10, and Kayden Godfrey, 8, chat after speaking to the media at The Peak in Perry, Box Elder County, on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. Bergman and Godfrey are two of the five boys who were hospitalized on Nov. 15 after suffering burns while playing with gasoline. The boys were walking home from school when they found gas cans and were involved in a burning accident. One boy remains in the burn unit at University Hospital.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

BRIGHAM CITY — It's a big word for a small boy, but Tyler Bergman talks about bacitracin like it's second nature.

The burn ointment covers the 10-year-old's face, adding a shine that coats the red burns that speckle and mar his left cheek and forehead. The ointment is also used to treat his hands — now covered in compression gloves — to "keep the scar stuff away."

Tyler was one of five Box Elder County boys involved in a burn accident Nov. 15. The schoolmates were all walking home from Three Mile Creek Elementary School when they came across some gas cans and, according to officials, began "playing with gasoline," causing a fire and explosion.

"It was really scary," Tyler said. "Everybody just started yelling and running. I ran over to Kayden's shoe, because it was on fire, and then I ran up to the UPS guy and said, 'Can you help? Everyone just got burned here.'"

Tyler's mother, Amber Jones, said the burns on her son's hands came from pulling his schoolmate's shoe off. Other than being there at all, she said, her son would not change what he did that day.

"He got lucky," Jones said. "He's just very tough. … He's tried really hard to conquer this thing."

At one point, Tyler's face was burned and swollen, obscuring his vision. He asked his mother if he would ever see again. Two days later, when his vision was back to normal, he asked her, 'Am I going to look like this forever?'"

"No parent should ever have to do this," Jones said. "You have to do wound care — no one should have to remove their children's flesh."

So his mother learned to treat burn wounds, and Tyler learned "not to play with fire."

Spencer Cronin, 9, said the fiery explosion sounded "like a sonic boom."

"I just jumped back because I saw the flames," he recalled, explaining that some of his schoolmates ran and others did what he did. "Stop, drop and roll. … I didn't really feel the flames, I just felt the heat."

He doesn't remember crying, but he remembers putting snow on his leg and another boy putting his whole head in the snow.

"His face was all black and so was his hair," he said, adding memories of what was going through his mind: "Some of these kids might not survive. Some of them will get badly hurt."

Spencer walked away with singed hair on his leg. Tyler and Kayden Godfrey, 8, both spent time in the hospital, as did another boy whose name has not been released. Tayton Winward, 7, is still in intensive care at the University Hospital burn center. He remains in critical condition.

"I'm always praying for him," Spencer said. "Every chance I get. And I hope everyone else does that."

Mardi Obray has been doing that and more. As owner of The Peak children's center, she knows Tayton, his mother and his sister, and has been working on a number of fundraisers to help his family and those of the other boys.

"(Tayton) is one of ours," she said. "That's why it's so personal to us."

They are selling poinsettias and collecting the tabs from soda cans that they turn in to donate to the Ronald McDonald House, where Tayton's family has been staying. There is a "hearts and hands" tree in the center of the lobby of the center that has ornaments representing items requested by all of the boys' families.

People take the ornaments and bring back what was requested — primarily gas cards.

"Everybody's still in treatment, except for Spencer," Obray explained.

Kayden will undergo a skin graft on his leg Monday.

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