'One hour at a time' recovery for huffing teen

01:05, Jul 04 2012
Jamie Jury
JAMIE JURY: Faces years of surgery.

The father of a Dunedin teenager seriously injured when an LPG bottle he was "huffing" exploded says 60 per cent of his son's body has been burnt.

Steven Jury said his son, 18-year-old Jamie Jury, was in an induced coma in Dunedin Hospital's Intensive Care Unit, with severe burns to his legs, arms, hands, face, throat and lungs.

The teenager was one of two injured in a Mosgiel house fire on Monday.

Brendon McLeod, 17, was today in a stable but serious condition after being transferred to the burns centre at Middlemore Hospital yesterday.

"Jamie is in the worst condition. He is too critical at this stage to travel," Jury said.

"It's just one hour at a time, a wait and see game. His burns are quite serious. There will be a lot of surgery, years of it I think."

The house fire had prompted Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean to conduct a review into huffing.

"I have instructed my office to review fatalities linked to butane inhalation. My investigation will include looking at previous coroners' findings, and checking to see if any recommendations were made, and whether those recommendations have been followed," MacLean said.

"I intend to contact my Australian counterparts and look at what work they have done in this area, and will also liaise with The Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee."

It followed the death of 12-year-old Darius Claxton who was sniffing butane in a Christchurch car park in May.

Police have yet to talk to Jamie Jury and McLeod because of the seriousness of their condition.

Investigations suggested the teenagers had three LPG bottles in the lounge of the house, and were inhaling gas from two when it ignited, causing a fireball in the room and setting their clothing on fire about 2pm.

The heat source for the explosion was believed to be an unflued gas heater, run off an LPG bottle in the room. The gas heater also exploded, resulting in extensive damage to the walls, windows and ceilings of the house, police said.

Witnesses heard several explosions and spotted one of the teenagers engulfed in flames, while the other ran out from the house calling out for help.

Another man, believed to be a friend of the pair, and who was wearing a cap, was seen leaving the house just moments before the incident. Police were searching for him yesterday.

Jury said he had never heard of LPG huffing before and didn't know his son was doing it.

"I know he had a go at petrol in the past, but I thought he was back in the straight and narrow, obviously not."

He said his son was on an electronically monitored sentence after he and McLeod stole and crashed his car last October.

Jury didn't know how his son knew McLeod, other than they hung out in the wrong circles.

"As soon as they get together, all these sort of things happen. It's only when they get together."

He said he met McLeod's parents and they were "good people".

Fire Service East Otago assistant area commander Trevor Tilyard said the force of the explosions in the house were so strong it sent an ornament across the road into the rear window of a parked car, and blew glass up the driveway of a house on the opposite side of the road.

"I don't know what the thought processes were in those two young men's minds. We've seen gas explosions before, but this is way out there as to a cause.

"The risk-taking in this incident was quite breathtaking. It's just mind-blowing," he said.

Senior Sergeant Gavin Briggs said the incident highlighted the ease with which such gases could ignite.

"Tragically, this incident has had terrible consequences for the two young men involved. The message is simple: gas is an extremely dangerous and risky substance to play around with: don't do it," he said.