Mudgee woman Laticia Crawford is recovering in a Melbourne hospital after suffering third degree burns at her father’s wake in Melbourne on June 29.
Moments before the tragedy, Laticia was standing by a fire with her friends and family when a middle-aged man poured fuel onto it, prompting an explosion that lit Laticia’s jacket and leg on fire.
Her mid-upper legs were the most affected areas on her body, while her lower back and hands sustained superficial burns.
Laticia’s husband Brody was standing alongside her before, during and after the disaster and can only describe his feelings almost two weeks onwards as ‘heartbroken’.
“I’ve never felt so sad and angry in my life. It’s so hard seeing someone you love in this situation,” Brody said.
“If anybody in the world doesn’t deserve something like this it’s her.”
Brody feels anger towards the man who caused the blaze but also directs some of it at the lack of willingness shown by the police to involve themselves in the situation.
“I thought it should be a criminal situation but the police don’t seem to be interested in pressing charges or anything,” he said.
“They looked at the statements that were mainly given by his (the offender’s) friends, and decided it was a total accident.
“If anybody in the world doesn’t deserve something like this it’s her."
The culprit hasn’t yet come forward with an apology for Laticia but at this point, Brody isn’t interested in one.
“Frankly, I don’t want to hear from him,” he said.
Laticia’s skin graft surgery took place on Monday July 2 and Brody hasn’t left her side since the incident.
Their seven-year-old son Jonah was at the wake but luckily wasn’t present when disaster struck. I couldn’t begin to imagine how he would try to deal with this if he was there and saw it all,” he said.
“He was there five minutes prior to it all happening, he was at the fire with us.
“His older sister came up and took him for a walk – she doesn’t get to see him very often.
“He’s coping alright. I’ve been trying to keep everything as normal as possible for him with his routines and all that sort of stuff. It’s hard being away from home, though.”
It’s been a week since the incident and, according to Brody, Laticia has dealt with it better than him so far.
“She was coping better than me. She’s on a drip and a lot of painkillers,” he said.
“She’s conscious and speaking – she’s a little groggy at times but they’re good down here at the hospital.
“They’ve worked out a painkiller regime to stay on top of everything.”
Life goes on
As harrowing as it’s all been so far, Brody is certain his family will move forward with a positive mentality.
“Life goes on, you know,” he said.
“We are a strong family and Laticia is the core strength of it. She’s a very strong woman, she’s had five kids, five caesareans… she deals with things positively which will really help in this situation and it will also help me.”
Before marrying Brody, Laticia had four other children, all of whom have developed strong relationships with their step-father.
“I met her when I was 21 and fell in love with her and took on four kids,” he said.
“The kids have all moved out but I’m still very good friends with all of them. We’re still all very close.”
“One of the boys is here with me now for the week. He’s 17 and he’s come down here for the week to spend time with her and me and help out.”
Even my young son Jonah asked why somebody would do that.Brody Crawford
A puzzling act of foolishness
It would be more understandable for Brody if the man who poured petrol onto the fire was young, but he’s puzzled at how a middle-aged man could do something so foolish.
“I did silly things when I was young,” he said.
“I’ve seen friends get burnt when I was younger but not to this extent.
“It’s hard to tell young people not to do crazy things like that but this guy was a 45 to 50 year-old that walked up and put this fuel on the fire.
“Even my young son Jonah asked why somebody would do that.
“I was a little on edge because this bloke was playing around with the fire all night and I was going to say something to him then but I was in conversation.”
A community comes to the rescue
Laticia Crawford is known by some in the region as the owner of the Mudgee Florist and although these events have rocked her business, Brody is certain the staff will be there to help throughout the recovery process.
“We’re lucky enough to have some beautiful ladies that work for Laticia and they’ve kept it open and running,” he said.
“They’re priceless. We’re so thankful for them, especially Kelly Lucas. She had planned on going away but postponed her trip just to keep the business running.”
A close friend of Brody and Laticia opened a GoFundMe account for this cause which has already received $6800.
Although Brody and Laticia aren’t the kind to ask for handouts, ‘the greatest strength at these times is having the ones you love by your side.’
When Brody shared the story to local community Facebook groups, the outpouring of support was swift and significant and quickly went viral.
The post on Mudgee’s largest community page currently has been shared over 70 times with reactions from more than 200 people, not to mention posts in other groups.
One comment from Margaret Gillespie expressed the feelings of many.
“That is awful news. Laticia doesn’t know me but as a customer of hers, she has been the most warm and welcoming person that I have met in Mudgee. Prayers for her and her family,” she wrote.
The generosity doesn’t just extend to crowdfunding, at least one person has been in touch with the Mudgee Guardian to tell us about their efforts to fundraise for the family.
Mudgee’s Natalie Longmuir has advertised on Facebook her plans to hold a cupcake fundraiser for Laticia and her family.
Details about the GoFundMe page can be found at gofundme.com/laticia039s-long-road-to-recovery
A long road to recovery
In his Facebook post, Brody writes that recovery will be a long and hard road and that the psychological impact will be forever.
“This has affected family and friends especially the few that witnessed it. He said.
“It's a horrific experience to see your wife on fire.
“I know the older kids feel the same way about seeing their mother on fire. Luckily our young son Jonah was away from the property when this happened so he didn't see or hear anything.”
Laticia will be in a Melbourne hospital for four weeks or more depending on the healing process.
When Laticia is well enough, there will be months of physiotherapy as her body continues healing.
“Even then it will take a long time for life to get even remotely normal.” Brody said.