United Kingdom

Sydney father reveals a split-second decision to look at pelicans saved daughter from exploding boat

An instinctive decision by father to show his 22-month-old daughter some pelicans has ultimately saved their lives, as the boat they were on exploded into flames just seconds later.

Oliver and his baby daughter Florence were aboard the boat on the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney on Easter Sunday when a friend offered to swap seats so they could go on the top deck and watch the pelicans.

Oliver offered to take up the offer and went upstairs while the friend went down onto the deck.

When the boat exploded seconds afterward during refuelling, Oliver and his daughter were shielded from the impact of the blast, while the friend tragically was among those who received its full impact.

'We went up onto the top of the boat when John [a friend] offered to swap seats with us to get a better view so Florence could see some pelicans,' Oliver told 7NEWS.

'It's hard to walk into a ward and hear someone screaming so loudly and know it's your close friend.' 

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Oliver and his baby daughter Florence were aboard a boat on the Hawkesbury River on Easter Sunday when the vessel suddenly caught fire shortly after refuelling 

CCTV footage from the Hawkesbury River Marina, at Brooklyn, captured the moment the vessel exploded near Dangar Island just after 5pm when the skipper turned on the ignition shortly after refuelling 

Ale Osr (pictured) remains intensive care eight days after the explosion on Easter Sunday - suffering burns to 60 per cent of her body

Mirka Tothova (pictured) suffered burns to 30 per cent of her body in the horrific explosion

CCTV footage from the Hawkesbury River Marina, at Brooklyn, captured the moment the vessel exploded near Dangar Island just after 5pm when the skipper turned on the ignition after refuelling.

The group can be seen casually strolling back along the dock and getting back onto the boat following refuelling.

Several people were gathered with the skipper on the rear deck while others stand on the bow, waiting to embark. 

But as the key was turned in the ignition, a fireball engulfed the rear part of the boat, with the force knocking people off their feet.

Those who were near the front of the boat rushed to the safety of the dock before some doubled back to help their critically injured friends.

Eleven people were on or near the boat when it exploded, with the injured running back to the marina where bystanders turned the area into a makeshift triage, filling containers with water and grabbing hoses to soothe burns, 9News reports.

This photo of the friends was taken on the boat an hour before the explosion on Easter Sunday

Ale Osr from Mexico also suffered severe burns to 60 per cent of her body after the boat exploded north of Sydney on Easter Sunday 

The boat exploded when the skipper turned on the ignition, the force knocking those on the stern to the ground

Mirka Tothova was celebrating her 30th birthday with the ten others on board a boat on Easter Sunday when the vessel exploded into flames.

The shop manager from Sydney's eastern suburbs suffered burns to 30 per cent of her body and was one of four rushed to hospital in a critical condition.  

Ms Tothova remains in the intensive burns unit at Royal North Shore Hospital where she will undergo skin grafts.

Her partner of four years Joseph Kwon, 33, was standing on the pontoon pushing the boat off after refuelling when the vessel suddenly exploded.

He recalled the horrifying moment of seeing his girlfriend covered in flames. 

'It's like we were in a terrorist attack, one minute it was calm, the next it was mayhem,' Mr Kwon told the Daily Telegraph. 

'Mirka's hair and clothes were on fire, I was patting them out with my hands.'

Mr Kwon described his girlfriend as a fighter after she moved to Australia to start a new life.

'She moved here five years ago, so it's hard when she has no family here — we've pretty much only got each other,' Mr Kwon said. 

Ms Tothova is currently in intensive care at Royal North Shore Hospital after suffering burns to her hands, arms, legs and torso

Emergency services rushed to the scene where they found a total of eight people injured and the boat engulfed in flames  

Joseph Kwon (right) described his partner Mirka (left) as a fighter

Ale Osr (pictured) remains intensive care eight days after the explosion on Easter Sunday - suffering burns to 60 per cent of her body

Friends are desperately trying to raise funds to cover their medical expenses for Ms Tothova and another critically injured woman Ale Osr from Mexico, who suffered severe burns to 60 per cent of her body.

GoFundMe pages has been set up to raise funds for both Ms Osr and Ms Tothova as they cannot claim Medicare to fund their growing medical costs.

Mr Kwon has acknowledged the public support and plans to spend part of the funds raised for Ms Tothova towards flying her family out to Australia. 

'Mirka is currently in the intensive burns unit undergoing skin grafting surgery and multiple other painful treatments,' a friend wrote on the page set up for Ms Tothova.  

'Roughly every three days she needs to have her wounds cleaned to remove the dead tissue so she does not get an infection. This is an extremely painful process which causes extreme fever after every procedure.'  

'Mirka is loved by her friends and the local community which she gives so much to, and those that are close to her know how funny she is with her unconventional humour,' the friend added 

'Mirka is on a bridging visa with no insurance and at this time we don't know exactly how much the financial burden will be for her long term rehabilitation, loss of income, rent, bills and cost for bringing her family to Australia.  

Mirka Tothova from Slovakia was celebrating her 30th birthday at the time the boat caught fire at the Hawkesbury River Marina in Brooklyn 

Ale Osr (left) and Mirka Tothova (right) were among four people rushed to hospital in a critical condition

Friends have rallied around Mirka Tothova (left) and Ale Osr (right) to raise funds for their medical costs as both are non-Australian citizens and can't access Medicare

Meanwhile, Ms Osr remains in intensive care.

Friends revealed Ms Osr requires surgery every second day and needs multiple skin grafts as she faces months of rehabilitation. 

'There is no timeframe currently on how long she will be in ICU for, as she is still in a critical condition,' a friend wrote online.  

'Ale requires surgery roughly every two days to remove dead skin and tissue, and to clean her wounds. To do this, they need to put her under general anaesthetic as it would be too painful if she were awake.  

'She will require multiple skin grafts to help heal large areas that have been burnt and extensive surgery and rehabilitation over the next few months.'

The friend said Ms Osr was working at a long day care centre at Gladesville 'where the families, children and educators all absolutely love and adore her'.

'Ale is known for her bubbly personality and infectious smile that has the ability to brighten anyone's day,' the friend said. 

As Ms Osr was in Australia on an international student visa she was not covered by Medicare.

'We are unsure at this time how much her student medical insurance will cover, however we do know that her medical expenses will be significant and may not be entirely covered,' a friends of Ms Osr wrote. 

'On top of this, her loss of income, rent, bringing her family to Australia, rehabilitation, and so on, all add extreme financial pressure, something that we would like to support Ale with as much as we can.'

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