10-year-old in need of grafts af­ter ‘stupid act’ with fire

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By KRIS DANDO

A 10-year-old boy set on fire at Mun­gavin Park will re­quire skin grafts to re­pair his burned face and neck, fol­low­ing ‘‘a stupid act’’ that never should have oc­curred, says his fa­ther.

Tepana Matthews spent much of last week in Hutt Hos­pi­tal, af­ter the in­ci­dent near the Mun­gavin ten­nis courts on De­cem­ber 5.

Tepana and his friend were play­ing at the park and were pres­sured into sniff­ing gas with some older boys, thought to be 13 or 14 years old, said his fa­ther Tim.

‘‘Tepana didn’t want to, so he pre­tended and tipped the gas out but some of it spilt on him. Then one of these kids lit a match.’’

When Tepana’s face caught fire the other kids ran away, but an­other child nearby, who had wit­nessed the as­sault, came over and put the flames out. The fire bri­gade and am­bu­lance were called, as were Tepana’s par­ents.

‘‘ It was un­be­liev­able. I was shocked when I got the news,’’ Mr Matthews said. ‘‘ You just don’t think some­thing like this will hap­pen when your boy and his friend go down to play in their lo­cal park. It’s not fair, just a stupid act.’’

One of the older boys in­volved was ap­pre­hended by po­lice as Tepana knew his name. Porirua Com­mu­nity Con­sta­ble and youth li­ai­son Peer Nielsen said it was likely charges would be laid in the youth court.

Tepana is now home from hos­pi­tal, await­ing news on whether skin grafts or surgery will be re­quired.

Mr Matthews did not want his son pho­tographed by the me­dia but showed Kapi-Mana News a pic­ture of Tepana, show­ing the se­vere ex­tent of the burns.

Along with the psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact, Tepana will have to deal with the phys­i­cal marks he now bears, with one ear com­pletely black­ened.

‘‘He seems OK. Ev­ery day is less painful for him. But he will have a scar on the side of his face for a long time and it’s go­ing to be hard for him to deal with that,’’ Mr Matthews said. ‘‘It will be a long road, but he will have plenty of sup­port. Tepana will be king of the cas­tle at home.’’

Mr Nielsen said while gas and glue-sniff­ing does oc­cur, it is not very fre­quent.

‘‘ Kids of­ten don’t know what they’re do­ing and don’t re­alise the con­se­quences of their ac­tions. For some­thing like this to hap­pen is ter­ri­ble, but it’s not a trend in Porirua or any­thing. It’s kids be­ing stupid and pres­sur­ing other peo­ple into it.’’

Mr Matthews is cer­tain his son was coaxed into do­ing some­thing he didn’t want to.

‘‘I know my son doesn’t do that sort of thing, but when you’re that age and an older, big­ger kid tells you to do some­thing, you do it.’’

Along with hav­ing the older boy ‘‘taken off the streets’’, he said it is im­por­tant peo­ple keep an eye out for sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity in lo­cal parks and re­serves.

‘‘I know this is some­thing else that isn’t a good look for Porirua, but I don’t think it’s some­thing that hap­pens reg­u­larly. But our com­mu­nity still needs to be aware of it.’’

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