'Should know better': Boy's terrible accident from hidden beach hazard

·3-min read

A family holiday ended in disaster when an eight-year-old boy was rushed to hospital with serious burns after stepping on a fire pit that had been covered up with beach sand instead of being extinguished with water.

Liam Rogers was on holiday in the Kimberley, in WA's north, with his family when they stopped for lunch at Willie Creek. Noting an area of sand looked particularly grey, the boy didn't think much of it before stepping on the area only to find out it wasn't just sand, but instead a still-smouldering fire. 

Now, his mother Jo Rogers is urging people to be vigilant of beachside fires, saying the easily preventable accident happens "way" too much.

A photo of Liam Rogers walking after surgery for his burned feet.
Liam Rogers walking after surgery for his burned feet. Source: Supplied

The area looked like 'grey sand'

Ms Rogers recalled hearing her son scream shortly after they stepped out of the car for lunch. 

"We thought he'd stepped on glass," she told Yahoo News Australia. "Then we realised he'd stepped in a fire."

Ms Rogers, who was on holiday with four other families, said they immediately poured water over his feet, and moved his feet into an esky after realising the severity of the burns.

She first took him to a hospital in Broome, but he was later flown to Perth Children's Hospital. 

A photo of Liam Rogers being loaded into a RFDS aircraft to airlifted to the Perth Children's Hospital for surgery
Liam Rogers was airlifted to the Perth Children's Hospital for surgery. Source: Supplied

"He has two badly burnt feet," she explained. "We had to get the RFDS (Royal Doctors Flying Service) out of Broome to Perth [and] he has had skin cells surgery."

Ms Rogers had to fly her other children home and get her car and van transported home on a truck, while her son was taken to hospital at Perth Children's Hospital and was treated for second-degree burns. 

However, the mum-of-three said accidents like Liam's are not uncommon.

"It happens everywhere," Ms Rogers said. 'When I got to Broome hospital I said 'oh another one,' and [the nurse] said 'yeah it happens quite a bit up here in the Kimberly.'"

Liam is recovering well from the burns, leaving the hospital on July 23.

"He's recovered really well," she said. "But it's certainly a wake-up call to put fires out with water."

Photos of the bottom of Liam's feet after surgery, they are badly blistered.
Liam has recovered well from the burns. Source: Supplied

Fire lighters should know better, says mum

The mum-of-three said the accident is a cautionary tale for anyone who doesn't realise the importance of correctly putting out a fire, adding there's "no one to blame" but urges people to be careful. 

"Yes kids should know better, but as adults lighting fires we should know better to put them out properly," she said. "[They are left] smouldering, if they are just covered with sand and dirt."

"[The fires] could keep burning little people or our beautiful bushland where we like to explore," she added.

"Please, please everybody make sure your fires are put out with water, water and more water."

Permits are required to light fires on the beach

Shire of Broome president Harold Tracey told Yahoo News Australia that residents and businesses must apply for a permit from the shire to light a fire on the beach.

"It is the responsibility of the proponent to ensure that fires are contained and that public safety is maintained," he said in an email.

"The Shire would urge anyone with the relevant permissions to light a fire on beaches to exert caution and ensure that the fire is properly extinguished to avoid accidents or people being hurt."

"Instances of people suffering burns due to fires on the beach are very rare but we want our public places to be safe – they are there for everyone in the community to enjoy."

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