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Idaho boy suffers life-threatening burns in lawnmower fire

Braxton Bigelow was severely burned in an accident at his house Monday morning.
Braxton Bigelow was severely burned in an accident at his house Monday morning.

A 12-year-old Rigby boy is in critical condition at the University of Utah Burn Center following an accident Monday at his home that left him with burns on nearly half of his body, a family member told the Statesman.

“He’s still fighting for his life,” said the boy’s aunt, Jorelle McClellan, who also lives in Rigby.

Braxton Bigelow was helping his dad try to get their riding lawnmower started Monday morning when he was hit by a flaming stream of gasoline that shot out of the machine, McClellan said.

“A big fireball came out, and it ignited my nephew,” McClellan said. “The gas came out from somewhere, like an explosion.”

McClellan didn’t witness the accident. She said her 37-year-old brother, Josiah Bigelow, noted that he took the spark plug out of the machine before the fire occurred.

The father of five acted quickly to extinguish the flames that enveloped his eldest child, ripping off his own shirt before taking the boy to the ground to smother the flames, McClellan said. He then grabbed a fire extinguisher to put out the lawnmower fire before calling 911 to alert authorities that he was rushing his son to the hospital.

The longtime former ambulance driver for the Idaho Falls Fire Department, who also suffered severe hand and arm burns in the accident, drove his son 15 miles to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls. Soon after they arrived there, the boy and his father were flown by air ambulance to the burn center in Utah, McClellan aid.

Braxton has first-, second- and third-degree burns on about 45 percent of his body, including his right arm, his torso and upper thighs. He has some blistering on his face.

“I think my brother yelled at him to cover his face, and it saved his lungs and airway,” McClellan said. “But it got his arms.”

She said the boy is being kept in a medically-induced coma. Doctors have already removed some of the dead skin, and they’ll remove more next week.

Family members are caring for Josiah and Angie Bigelow’s four children while they are at Braxton’s side at the burn center. The boy is expected to be in treatment there for another 45 days and in recovery for a full year.

Two teachers at Rigby Middle School are collecting cards, posters and gifts for Braxton, whose 13th birthday is Monday. The goal is to have his room decorated with get well signs and birthday wishes for when he is brought out of the coma; it’s unclear when that will be.

Family members have set up an online fundraiser on CaringBridge.com called Blessings for Braxton to help the Bigelows with travel and medical expenses in the coming months. About $3,500 toward a goal of $10,000 has been raised so far.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

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