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Ashley Chulk was engulfed in a fireball when cans exploded
IT WAS supposed to be a bit of fun – but it turned into a horrible and agonising ordeal.
Basingstoke teenager Ashley Chulk suffered frightening facial burns after a prank went horribly wrong.
Ashley, of Martin Close, in Oakridge, was engulfed in a fireball when cans of aerosol glue exploded after he and friends placed them in a bonfire.
Hours after being discharged from a three-night stay at a specialist burns unit at Salisbury District Hospital, the 14-year-old spoke to The Gazette to warn others about the danger of playing with fire.
Doctors say Ashley can make a full recovery but only if he sticks to a strict treatment plan which includes meticulously washing his injuries and applying petroleum jelly on his wounds three times a day.
But the keen sportsman will have to stay away from contact sports, and for the next two years apply factor 30 sun cream all year round and wear a baseball cap whenever he ventures outside to shield his face from ultra-violet rays.
Ashley said he deeply regrets the prank. “It is dangerous and it is not the best way to have fun. That’s what I was trying to do – have a laugh with my friends – but it turned out to be an horrific night.”
The prank began when Ashley and three pals explored a building site and helped themselves to cans of spray adhesive from an unlocked storage cabinet in Taverner Close, where Sentinel Housing Association is currently demolishing 90 flats.
He said the group then went to woodland behind Taverner Close, lit a bonfire and buried two aerosol cans in the firewood, expecting them to explode with a bang.
Five minutes later, the cans duly exploded but with a force that Ashley, who was standing five feet back, and his friends had not expected.
The blast knocked two of Ashley’s friends off their feet, and he was engulfed in a fireball.
“I knew I was really badly burned. My face felt really hot,” said the teenager, who attends The Vyne Community School.
“I thought of all those people who had been in fires and their scars – I kept thinking of that.”
Ashley ran home and had a cold shower. He said: “When all my skin started peeling off, I knew something was wrong. It was terrifying.”
Ashley was rushed to Basingstoke hospital by his parents where accident and emergency medics sent him straight to a specialist burns unit in Salisbury.
Recalling his shock at seeing his son’s injuries, Ashely’s dad Terry, 51, said: “At first, he was very red, not as bad as it looks now, but I could see it was very serious.”
“I was devastated,” he added, “and I panicked. The same sort of things went through my mind as Ashley’s – what is he going to look like after this?”
Doctors said Ashley was lucky not to lose his sight, or damage his hearing.
Mansoor Khan, consultant in plastic and reconstructive surgery at Salisbury District Hospital, said: “As this is an explosive incident, it causes a flash burn, which results in an intense but quick burn to the skin. These types of burn, although not especially deep, are quite destructive and extremely painful.
“They tend to be quite dramatic in appearance and, if the face is involved, then it can lead to a serious burn to not only the skin of the face, but more important areas such as eyes and inside the mouth which could result in permanent damage.”
Ashley is still haunted by the horror of the incident.
“I get quite a lot of flashbacks,” he said. “Looking in the mirror, it is really terrifying. Sometimes it is embarrassing when there are little kids and they are staring. I have to ignore it.
“I just want to warn people, especially kids, that it is not safe to play with fire. It’s not fun when someone gets hurt. People have to be careful, especially on building sites where you can get into a lot of trouble.”
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