Women set alight by fancy dress outfits

Gaye Hird and Valerie Conneely in hospital in Newcastle
Gaye Hird and Valerie Conneely in hospital in Newcastle

Two Scarborough women are in hospital awaiting skin grafts for second degree burns after their fancy dress costumes caught fire at a party.

Gaye Hird, 57, of Falsgrave, and Valerie Conneely, 61, of Seamer Road, are beginning a slow road to recovery at Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

The friends had been to a Zulus themed fancy dress party in the Woodlands area at the weekend, wearing grass skirt costumes with leg and arm accessories purchased from the internet.

After only 10 minutes at the party disaster struck as a camping fire, used to heat a gazebo, set alight part of Valerie’s costume when she unknowingly sat beside it.

As her arm burst into flames Gaye rushed over to help, only for her skirt to catch fire too.

Struck with horror the pair ended up rolling on the floor attempting to douse the flames, with Gaye turning on a hosepipe to spray cold water on her legs.

As a result of the incident Gaye has been left with second degree burns to both her legs, her left forearm and part of her back, with Valerie suffering second degree burns to her left arm.

Speaking from her hospital bed, Gaye said: “It was terrifying. Everything just happened so quickly.

“When Val’s costume caught alight everyone seemed to be running around but not actually doing anything, so I went to help her try and pat out the flames.

“It just went up like you wouldn’t believe. Nobody knew what to do, and the flames just wouldn’t go out.

“It didn’t feel like it was real. It still doesn’t now. We are both in shock and a lot of pain.”

The pair, who are sharing a room together at hospital, are awaiting treatment for skin grafts.

Valerie, who may possibly not need a full graft, is likely to remain in hospital for at least two weeks, while Gaye, who has burns from her ankle to her groin, will be kept in for anything between one and three months.

Following their ordeal, and with Halloween and Christmas fast approaching, the women are warning people of the dangers of buying fancy dress costumes online.

They hope their terrible experience will highlight the dangers of purchasing “cheap foreign imports that are not safe to use”, and are urging party goers to check labels and packaging, and reject anything that may be flammable.