Pair burnt in spit roast fire at birthday celebrations in the Coromandel
What was set to be an afternoon tucking into a pig roast in celebration of a birthday ended with two men in hospital, one of them in a serious condition.
A 56-year-old man was flashed in the face and neck - seriously burning him - by a flame that shot out of the spit-roast barbecue during the celebrations on Saturday.
He had to be flown by helicopter to Waikato Hospital.
Standing behind him was the elderly birthday boy, who also suffered burns and was taken to Thames Hospital in a moderate condition.
About a dozen or so family and friends were setting up for the party at the elderly man's farm not far from the Coromandel airfield around midday on Saturday.
Around 100 guests were expected at the shindig, where a gazebo had been set up outside and food was being laid out ready for a late spit-roast lunch.
But the barbecue set up to roast the hog would not ignite, Westpac Rescue Helicopter intensive care paramedic Marcel Driessen said.
"This thing clearly wasn't igniting, but the gas was seeping out of the holes from the burner. There was a big build-up of gas and they couldn't light the darn thing, then eventually when it did light, because there was so much gas in there from the burners, this blue-yellow flame blew straight into the 56-year-old's face."
"He bore the full brunt of the explosion when it happened."
Just moments before, a large group of people had been hovering around the barrel barbecue.
"It was quite lucky, actually, because just a few minutes before they had wandered off. We could have had a lot more people burnt and injured."
Partygoers pounced into action, grabbing a hose to douse down the man, whom Driessen said suffered burns to 10 per cent of his body.
"They started cooling him for a good 20 minutes.
"He was lucky he didn't inhale any of the gas - that was my concern, that he may have had airway burns and that his airway could swell up."
The helicopter was called in from Whitianga and arrived within six or seven minutes to see the fire brigade coming down the road and an ambulance heading up the driveway.
"We landed on the man's front lawn and were directed to two patients."
By then, the seriously injured 56-year-old man had been moved to a shower inside the main house.
"He had pretty severe burns to his face and arms - partial- to full-thickness burns. By then he was getting quite cold, having been under a hose for 20 or so minutes."
Paramedics stripped and dried the man off and wrapped him in cling film to protect the burns from air and keep them clean.
He was given intravenous pain relief before being flown to Waikato Hospital in a serious condition.
The other man, who was in his 80s, was taken by road ambulance to Thames Hospital with moderate injuries.
"They were all gutted because it was the elderly chap's birthday party and the other chap felt bad because he thought he had ruined the afternoon celebrations."
Driessen credited the other guests in providing immediate first aid and ensuring the fire was out.
"Cooling, cooling, cooling straight off saved him from being worse than he was. He knew he was very lucky and extremely grateful to everyone involved."
He expected the man's recovery would take some time.
"We were there really quick and instead of a two-and-a-half-hour trip by road to hospital, we were able to get there in 30 minutes."
The Whitianga-based helicopter was also called to Whangamata at 1am to uplift a man with severe head injuries from an assault.
Driessen said the local man in his 40s who was found outside a property in the township was flown to Tauranga Hospital in a serious condition.