SALT LAKE CITY — The sky was just beginning to lighten outside the cargo trailer where the Mathis family was sleeping when Amie Mathis’ 7-year-old daughter woke up to go to the bathroom.
Mathis glanced at the clock. It was 6:18 a.m. The propane heater had gone out during the night. Her husband went to ignite it.
That’s when the trailer erupted.
“It was just a flash,” Mathis said. “A big flash. And then it came down upon us.”
With three kids screaming and the trailer locked from the inside, Mathis struggled to open the door as flames erupted around them.
Mathis still isn’t sure how her husband got the family out of the trailer, she said. In the process, he suffered the worst burns, reported the Deseret News (http://bit.ly/2eklJSQ).
“We were trapped in there for a couple minutes,” said Mathis, who cried as she recalled the incident from the University of Utah Burn Center. “Heavenly Father was watching out for us.”
Four of the five are still recovering at the burn center from a range of first- to third-degree burns. And Mathis is still processing how a family hunting trip that had ended in triumph — their 13-year-old killed a deer the day before — turned nightmarish in a split second.
Once the family escaped from the burning trailer, Mathis said they tried to call for help but couldn’t get service.
That’s when Mathis detached the trailer from the truck and her husband drove the family 20 miles down the road toward Richfield.
During that harrowing ride, Mathis and her husband hid the extent of their injuries from their kids.
“I have to be strong for my kids,” she said. “My husband does the same. So we were just saying prayers and letting them know that even though we were in the worst state right then, that there is a higher power that will help take care of them.”
Emergency medical workers met the family at a rest stop on the highway and later transported three of them by helicopter and one of them by ambulance to the burn center, where her husband remains sedated, Mathis said.
Her 13-year-old and 7-year-old will go home first. She hopes to go home within a month. Mathis’ husband will stay the longest.
The Sevier County Sheriff’s Office said investigators later found a coupling to the propane bottle hose had been leaking propane.
“I don’t think you can prevent something like that,” said Mathis, whose arms and legs remain covered in bandages. “So just don’t take your family for granted.
“It could have been a lot worse,” she added. “We’re lucky to be here today.”
A GoFundMe account for the family has raised nearly $10,000.
Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com