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