Woman Fights for Her Life After Getting Severely Burned While Lighting Fire Pit on New Year's Eve
ROBERT LEE, TX — New Year’s Eve was about to be a late evening with friends and family in the yard of her home in Robert Lee. There was a fire pit and the group gathered at the home was attempting to start the fire. The initial attempts to start the fire ended with no luck. It had rained a few days earlier and the wood was still wet.
That is when Samantha Fernandez, 26, found a full gas can in the garage. The fire was only smoldering, she thought. There’d be no harm in pouring a little gasoline on the kindling to speed up the fire lighting process. By the time Samantha came back from the garage to the fire pit, others had gone back inside the house.
She began to pour the gasoline on the fire. Then, suddenly, as she poured the gas, flames ran back up the liquid stream to the can and the gas can exploded in her hands.
“They heard a loud explosion outside,” cousin Tiffany Coffey said. Inside the house, friends and family said they could see the explosion and the flames through the curtains. Everyone ran outside and saw, to their horror, Samantha rolling on the ground, completely engulfed in flames. What Tiffany found out later that no one knew at the time was the gasoline was mixed with 2-cycle oil, creating a deadly mixture of highly flammable gasoline with oil that makes the gas stick to surfaces, like Samantha’s clothing and skin. The oil thickened the gasoline, making the mix on fire much like Napalm.
“When she poured the gas on the fire, she had no idea the flames would travel back up to the can so quickly,” Tiffany said.
“Her sister ran inside and got a blanket. When she returned outside, Samantha was still on fire, rolling across the walkway,” Tiffany said. “She beat her with the blanket, attempting to extinguish the flames.”
There was no water hose in the front yard, but Samantha’s 9-year-old niece ran inside and fetched cups and cups of water to pour on her aunt.
“All the kids saw her on fire,” Tiffany said.
“It happened so fast, but it seemed like it was forever,” Tiffany said. “She had probably been on fire for three, four, maybe five minutes before we could get it put out.”
After the fire was out, every shred of Samantha’s clothing had burned off her body. As she laid in the front yard naked and wounded, she was still talking. She could still open her eyes.
The Robert Lee Volunteer Fire Department and EMS arrived quickly. At first, the firefighters were alerted about a grass fire. When they arrived they quickly adjusted to the tragic scene as they stabilized Samantha and rushed her to San Angelo to the hospital.
“They were on their toes,” Tiffany said of the volunteer firefighters who responded. When Samantha was placed on the gurney, however, she went into shock.
The explosion happened at about 9:45 p.m. on New Year’s Eve night.
Today, Samantha is in intensive care in the burn unit at the UMC Burn Center inside the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock. Tiffany said she sustained burns over 85 percent of her body. Her body swelling from the days-old burns now, Tiffany said Samantha is on a feeding tube and a breathing machine. The first surgery is scheduled for Saturday, she told us.
“She’s lucky to be alive and she has a long road to recovery,” Tiffany said.
Samantha was unemployed. Like for many women in rural communities, the job opportunities are not plentiful. To get a job in San Angelo, she lacked a car or transportation. “She was looking for work, but in the meantime, she babysat and cleaned houses,” Tiffany said. She has no health insurance.
She will likely be in the burn unit in Lubbock for months. Tiffany said she, her mother, stepmother, sister and two brothers will be looking out for her there. Samantha’s father had passed away previously.
To aid the family in caring for Samantha, Tiffany and friends set up a fundraising effort. All of the money will go towards helping the family travel and stay in Lubbock and will pay what they can for Samantha’s medical care. Mom, Theresa Mecher Fernandez, will manage the donations.
There is an account set up for Samantha Fernandez at the Robert Lee State Bank, 621 Austin St, Robert Lee, TX 76945. You can also donate via GoFundMe here.
Recommended for You
Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily newsletter, The LIVE! Daily.