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Suffolk mum set alight after pub heater blast says drunk man throwing ethanol caused the explosion

A mother who suffered life-changing burns after a portable heater exploded has revealed her injuries were caused by a drunk man adding ethanol to it for ‘a laugh’.

April Charlesworth, 28, suffered severe burns to her face, chest and hands after the blast at the Kings Head pub in Great Cornard, Suffolk.

She had planned to spend the evening enjoying birthday drinks with her cousin, Ashleigh, but ended up being rushed to Queen Victoria Hospital, London for urgent treatment.  

Speaking from hospital today, the 28-year-old, from Sudbury, revealed the explosion happened after a drunken man in her group poured ethanol into the portable heater for ‘a laugh’.  

And April insists she was saved from further harm after a quick-thinking member of the public doused the flames by throwing white wine over her. 

April Charlesworth, 28, has suffered life-changing burns after a portable heater exploded while she was having celebratory birthday drinks at a Suffolk pub

The mother-of-one, pictured before the incident, says she has avoided worse injuries after the flames were doused in Pinot Grigio

The mother-of-one, pictured before the incident, says she has avoided worse injuries after the flames were doused in Pinot Grigio 

Investigators are seen at the King's Arms pub after the horrific incident involving the outdoor heater

Investigators are seen at the King’s Arms pub after the horrific incident involving the outdoor heater

The heater involved in the incident was fuelled by ethanol and had an open flame.

It is believed that April and her cousin were burned when a drinker at the pub sprayed ethanol from a spare bottle on to the naked flame as a prank, causing the bottle to ‘explode’.

April’s whole head remains bandaged and she says all she remembers of that moment was her face being covered in flames. 

The mother-of-one said: ‘ A certain person, who was part of the group I was with, thought it was funny to keep filling the heater up with ethanol.

‘He was in a bit of a drunken state, and we kept telling him not to do it.

‘Another member of our group was stopping him from doing it – but they went off to the toilet for just a minute, and everything happened so quickly.

‘All I remember was my face just being on fire.’

April (shown) was celebrating her 28th birthday with family and friends at The Kings Head, Great Cornard before the pub heater blast changed her life forever

April (shown) was celebrating her 28th birthday with family and friends at The Kings Head, Great Cornard before the pub heater blast changed her life forever

April Charlesworth (above) and her cousin, children's nurse Ashleigh, both face a long road to recovery after suffering horrific facial burns

April Charlesworth (above) and her cousin, children’s nurse Ashleigh, both face a long road to recovery after suffering horrific facial burns

Police survey the scene at the pub after the pair were rushed by ambulance to a specialist burns unit

Police survey the scene at the pub after the pair were rushed by ambulance to a specialist burns unit

An investigator picks up a pair of burned coats near where the pair suffered the horrific burns

An investigator picks up a pair of burned coats near where the pair suffered the horrific burns

What heaters are used in pub gardens? 

While drinkers and diners are still forced to socialise outside, pubs and restaurants have been forced to invest in heating during the chilly spring months.

There are many different types of heater seen in hospitality venues. 

Some use patio heaters installed with heat lamps to warm up the customers, while others use standing structures with open flames.

A gas burning patio heater is often seen in Britain's beer gardens

A gas burning patio heater is often seen in Britain’s beer gardens

EDF says electric heaters are a better option than gas heaters because they do not produce any local NOx pollution, they use less energy and produce 60 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions.

Electric heaters can be cheaper to operate, can be placed on a timer, making them more efficient, and can be mounted on surfaces more conveniently than gas heaters with their heavy gas canisters.  

The heater which caused the severe burns to April was a portable ethanol heater with an open flame. 

Users pour the ethanol into the canister and the heaters should produce no ash or fumes.

April added that the wine that was thrown over her was a bottle of Pinot Grigio, which helped to douse the flames.

The Kings Head pub was closed following the incident – but the landlords said they were ‘limited’ as to what they could say, in light of an ongoing police investigation.

Posting on its Facebook page, a spokesperson for the pub added: ‘We can however confirm that the heating appliance was not one supplied by the pub, but was brought onto the premises without our knowledge. 

‘Our focus is on supporting the enquiry that is taking place while keeping them, and their families, at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.’ 

April says she is still is hoping for an apology from her drunken friend.

‘I haven’t spoken to the guy since who kept pouring ethanol into the heater – I haven’t even had a text or anything to apologise.

‘He was able to walk out of hospital after just 36 hours, whereas here I still am 12 days later.’

Jeremy Woodcraft, licencing and regulatory solicitor at Keystone Law, has warned against punters bringing their own heaters to beer gardens.

He told the Morning Advertiser: ‘It would be very difficult to manage risks created by heaters brought on to site by customers.

‘Part of the duty of the pub is to ensure that as far as reasonably practicable what their customers do does not create a risk to others.

‘Allowing customers to bring their own heaters onto site would create an obvious risk that is very difficult for the pub to manage.’ 

April said she believes she is on a ‘long journey’ to recovery.  

‘I’ve had skin donor skin put on my face and my chest, which I’m told is working well.

‘But it’s just a waiting game to see if I’ll need anything more done, like a skin graft.’

April added that she has been speaking to her cousin Ashleigh most days, and they are supporting each other through their recovery.

The King's Head pub has since confirmed the heater was 'brought onto the premises without their knowledge' before it exploded injuring three customers including April Charlesworth

The King’s Head pub has since confirmed the heater was ‘brought onto the premises without their knowledge’ before it exploded injuring three customers including April Charlesworth

Police forensic officers carried out an investigation in the pub garden which was cordoned off with blue and white police tape

Police forensic officers carried out an investigation in the pub garden which was cordoned off with blue and white police tape

A spokesperson for Suffolk Police, who have launched an investigation into the incident, said: ‘Officers were called shortly before 10pm on Saturday, April 24, following reports of an explosion in the outside area at the Kings Head pub in Bures Road.

‘It is believed the fire was caused by a small portable fuel heater.

‘Emergency services attended including the fire service and ambulance service, and three people were taken to hospital for treatment. 

A man, in his 20s, who suffered burns in the explosion has since been released from hospital.

28-year-old April (above) was rushed to Bury St Edmunds Hospital, before being taken to Queen Victoria Hospital, London for urgent treatment

28-year-old April (above) was rushed to Bury St Edmunds Hospital, before being taken to Queen Victoria Hospital, London for urgent treatment

April's cousin and children's nurse Ashleigh Charlesworth (pictured) was also left with potentially life-changing injuries after the portable heater exploded

April’s cousin and children’s nurse Ashleigh Charlesworth (pictured) was also left with potentially life-changing injuries after the portable heater exploded

Officers were seen examining coats which were left at the scene and appeared to be burned. Pictured: Police at the scene

Officers were seen examining coats which were left at the scene and appeared to be burned. Pictured: Police at the scene

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