First date horror: Couple permanently scarred after candlelit dinner goes up in flames
A couple who were left with life-threatening third degree burns after their first date went terribly wrong have beaten the odds and are still together.
Tiara Del Rio (22) and Beau Zimbro (33) were left severely burned after the strike of a lighter fuelled a gas explosion during their first date in Phoenix, Arizona in 2013.
"I wanted to make the room smell nice. But as I held it in my hand and flicked a lighter with the other, it blew up in my face," said Tiara according to The Daily Star.
"He saved my life although it was not the first date we had planned," said Tiara.
The 22-year-old was left in worse condition than her date and suffered third-degree burns to 53pc of her body. Beau’s arms were also severely burned.
The couple have been through more than 22 operations and are still together, despite their difficult journey.
"I remembered an explosion, then someone throwing me out the window.
"I remember the room had been filled with smoke. We couldn't see each other.
"Beau picked me up, threw me out the house and told me to drop to the floor. Moments later he came out and rolled me on the ground, to put out the flames.
"When we were outside the house, I spotted policemen. They hosed us down, gave us drinks of water and asked how we were,” said Tiara.
Tiara and Beau were rushed to hospital before Beau was airlifted to Maricopa Medical Centre in Arizona to treat his burns.
Tiara’s burns meant that half her body, including her scalp, back, legs, and hands needed skin grafts and after catching sight of herself in the mirror weeks later she became frightened.
"There were no mirrors on the ward, in case I saw myself and got upset," she said.
"Then in December, the nurses undressed me for a shower and I got to see my scarred body for the first time. I was devastated."
After months of treatment, a meeting between the pair was arranged by staff at both hospitals, but Tiara revealed that the meeting came with anxiety.
"I was scared Beau would think I was ugly.
"Instead, when I saw him in a wheelchair, we both seemed too overwhelmed to speak.
"I wanted to hug him but we were told we couldn't as we'd pass on infection."
The couple’s recovery was aided by a revolutionary process called ReCell which allows doctors to work with skin cells, which then develop into new skin rather than grafting from healthy, unaffected skin.
After Tiara was released from hospital last year, the full affect of her injuries became clear and she revealed that it helped bring her closer to Beau.
"In the April, Beau, who'd had to stay in hospital longer as he'd suffered complications, was allowed home.
"I saw him as often as I could, but when we left the house together, people stared at us like we were monsters.
"Some people called us disgusting and seemed scared of us. At first I felt so self-conscious I didn't want to leave the house.
"Then other times I was angry they didn't have the guts to ask what happened.
"With time I learnt that I shouldn't feel bad for the way I looked. I'd survived to tell the tale."
The couple now live together in Arizona but believe the ordeal has given them the makings of a stong relationship.
"We were there for one another every day, growing even closer than before," recalled Tiara.
"We talked about one day rebuilding my aunt's house and making it our own. In the meantime, we're constantly reminded of what we went through together."
"I kept the notes Beau and I wrote to each other in hospital and look back on them.
"And the parts of my wing tattoo, now scattered across my body, will always help us remember how we survived the blast.
"I wouldn't change them. Or the fact I met Beau. Without him I might not be here today."
"We've been through so much but are still together," added Tiara.
"It was one hell of a first date."