Central Coast residents are rallying around a Lompoc family, including a high school agriculture teacher, after several members were seriously burned in a freak accident during a camping trip.
“While camping on Thanksgiving with family and friends, an outdoor heating device erupted, spraying hot fuel on Gretchen, Graham, their 16-year-old son, Braiden, and Gretchen’s father, Richard,” according to the GoFundMe page started by Graham’s longtime friend, Ian Charnley.
Several families, including Gretchen and Graham Flaherty plus their children, had traveled to the Ridgecrest area to spend the Thanksgiving weekend camping when the incident occurred mid-day Thursday.
“It just basically was a fireball in the camp,” Charnley told Noozhawk on Saturday.
As the fire engulfed Atascadero resident Richard Mullins, his daughter, Gretchen Flaherty, jumped on top of him to try to extinguish the flames.
“She literally tackled him to try to put him out. That’s the type of person she is,” Charnley said.
Charnley’s son grabbed a fire extinguisher from his truck and began spraying the burning pair.
“It was pretty horrific,” Charnley said, adding that others in the group were shaken by the incident.
Gretchen Flaherty, a Lompoc High School agriculture department chair and FFA adviser, and her father received severe burns. Her husband and son also were badly burned, but had injuries confined to smaller areas of their bodies.
The family members were taken to several hospitals. Mullins was flown by medical helicopter to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center’s burn center in the San Bernardino area, while Gretchen, Graham and Braiden Flaherty initially were taken by ambulance to Ridgecrest Regional Hospital.