Newspaper Article 1985 – A fiery lesson for all!

A fiery lesson for all!

Victim of fireball jumped into creek.


A family camping trip could have ended in tragedy for a Hastings doctor who was engulfed in a fireball on Christmas Day.

Paediatrician David Barry escaped serious injury by jumping into a stream.

He hopes his accident will make other people realise the value of cold water if they are burned.

Dr Barry was preparing food for Christmas dinner when a small gas cylinder he was attaching to a camp cooker caught fire.

Dr Barry suffered flash burns to his legs and arms in the accident, which happened at Six Mile Creek, about 80km from Blenheim.

He was changing the cylinder after deciding that peas should be added to the Christmas dinner menu.

But because the cylinder had heated up in the sun and expanded, it punctured before Dr Barry could fix it securely under the cooker.

“When it punctured the gas rushed out in a tremendous cloud and, because another burner was going about six feet away, it ignited in a huge flash.

“There was a big ball of flame but it only lasted a few seconds. I didn’t really have time to think about it.”

But after the fire Dr Barry acted quickly.

He rolled on the ground to make sure the flames which burnt his body and clothing were out and then jumped into the stream near the camping spot.

“The stream was deep enough so I could lie in it and be completely covered.

“I was lucky that it was nearby because it helped with the pain and decreased the damage.”

Dr Barry stayed in the stream for 10 minutes and his skin started blistering.

“I got out but after a minute or two it became painful and I climbed back into the stream.”

Dr Barry’s wife Joyce drove for more than an hour to take him to the Blenheim hospital.

He spent a week-and-a-half in that hospital before being flown back to the Hastings hospital for another week.

Dr Barry’s good sense helped to minimise his injuries and he thinks once the bandages come off he will not be scarred.

He says people should remember to immediately cover any burns with cold, clean water to stop further burning.

Clean wet dressings also help if there is little water available.

Nothing else should be put on the burn.

Dr Barry says if anything else is put on, infection can become a major problem.

The burn should also be left clear so hospital staff can clean and look at the injury.

Dr Barry, who has spent the last month recuperating from his accident, plans to be back working at his hospital practice this week.

Photo caption – David Barry holds a gas cylinder similar to the one which exploded as he prepared Christmas dinner.

Original digital file



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Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ)

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Date published

January 1985

Format of the original

Newspaper article


The Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


  • Dr David Barry
  • Sue Bedwell

Accession number


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