'We thought we'd lost him': Man suffers horrific burns in massive ute explosion

Des Woods is facing 12 months in hospital after suffering severe burns to his face, chest and arms while trying to extinguish a fire in his ute.

On the evening of March 6, the 36-year-old was spending time with his family and stepdaughter Amber Towle, 21, when they noticed a bright light coming from the front yard.

When they went outside to investigate they realised Mr Woods’ work ute was well alight.

“My mum passed Des the hose while I called the fire brigade,” Ms Towle told Yahoo News Australia.

The situation quickly intensified as Mr Woods desperately tried to put out the fire, items in the truck started exploding.

The first explosion was so large Ms Towle said her stepfather disappeared in the large flames which reached the powerlines above.

“We thought we’d lost him,” she said, estimating there were about a dozen explosions.

Des Woods is recovering from burns after his vehicle exploded.
Des Woods is facing a long road to recovery after suffering burns to his face, chest and arms when his vehicle exploded. Source: Supplied

Suffering from shock, Mr Woods ran for his life to escape the flames and when Ms Towle and her mother caught up with him a few metres away “he was shaking from head to toe”.

“I couldn’t really speak to him, I don’t think he was registering what we were saying,” she said.

Mr Woods was rushed to Port Macquarie Base Hospital before being flown to Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney the next day, where he faces a long recovery.

“His chest is completely gone, that’s the worst part of it, his face is severely burnt, his arms and legs are burned and he’s bandaged from pretty much head to toe,” Ms Towle said.

The family has started a GoFundMe page to help pay for medical treatments and help support Mr Woods and his family until he can return to work as a tree climber.

“It will be at least 12 months before he goes back to work again,” Ms Towle said.

Des Woods and his step daughter Amber Towle at an off road vehicle race
Des Woods (left) and his stepdaughter Amber Towle (right) have a close bond and race off-road vehicles together. Source: Supplied

The close family drove the four hours to visit Mr Woods in hospital yesterday and were only able to spend 30 minutes with him.

“He was having a very bad day, he was heavily sedated because they changed his dressings and that knocked him around, he was in a fair amount of pain,” Ms Towle said.

Mr Woods has undergone surgery to remove destroyed skin and will face more in the next week. In the meantime Ms Towle said the family believes the fire was deliberately lit and are searching for answers.

“We just want to know who did it and why,” she said, adding that her stepfather was a familiar face in their area and well-liked.

“He’d do anything to help anybody, I’m pretty sure this whole town knows him,” she said.

NSW police told Yahoo News Australia they were investigating the incident.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a report online.

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