Mother suffers horrific burns after fireball at family barbecue
A mother is in a critical condition in hospital after being engulfed in flames at a family barbecue.
Joanne McMahon was at a family Confirmation after-party in Ardagh, Co Limerick, when a fireball exploded in her face as she put more fuel on the barbecue. "She swallowed the flames. It was horrific," a garda spokesman said.
The victim, who is in her 40s and from Castlemahon, Co Limerick, is said to have sustained around 70pc burns to her upper body.
Ms McMahon's sister Noelle Collum, from Knockaderry, was also badly burned.
Two children attending the party were taken to University Hospital Limerick, but were discharged, having sustained minor injuries.
Ms McMahon, who sustained the most serious burns, is being treated by a specialist team at St James's Hospital in Dublin.
Ms McMahon was transferred there after being treated at Cork University Hospital. Ms Collum is being treated at Cork University Hospital.
A third sister, Mary Griffin, from Ardagh, near Newcastle West, was thought to have been badly burned, but her husband Tom, a well-known butcher, said she was out of hospital and "walking around".
The post-Confirmation bank holiday party was in full swing on Friday at Mr Griffin's home in Dunganville, Ardagh, when the festive family atmosphere turned to horror.
Mr Griffin had a marquee erected and the three sisters and their extended families were enjoying the afternoon sunshine just before the incident occurred.
He said his wife Mary had escaped serious injury.
"She was the least (injured). She's walking around. Joanne is in Dublin and Noelle is in Cork. They are doing okay. (We hope) they'll be okay, in time."
A garda source said they believed that the barbecue went out of control when fuel was put on it, causing the flames to shoot upwards suddenly. "She (Ms McMahon) was putting fuel on to it to get it going more. She got burned down her throat and everything. She swallowed the flames," the source said.
Her mother, a retired nurse, ran to douse the flames from her daughter's face and hair and applied wet towels to the affected area, a local source said.
Gardai and the fire service were called to the scene and a helicopter air ambulance landed there within minutes.
Two gardai who were dispatched to the scene are said to be traumatised.
"The two (gardai) went down and the air ambulance was down for her. It was all very quick. The (gardai) had to go home after it. They were in bad form over it," the garda spokesman said.