A woman has described being burned by an exploding gas canister at a Hawke's Bay school last month as "worse than giving birth" .
The November 21 explosion at Mayfair School pushed mother-of-three Megan Tuimaualuga backwards into a door and narrowly missed her daughter during a pupils' outdoor education and camping skills exercise.
The burns to her hand and arm have prevented her from enrolling in her computing course and, as a result, she misses out on student allowance payments that are not covered by ACC. This loss of income is particularly stressful and means she is financially stretched for Christmas.
Mrs Tuimaualuga is the mother of Elizabelle 8, Sosaia, 7, and Sam, 5. On the day of the explosion, she was a parent helper for the school's outdoor education exercise.
This week, she spoke exclusively to Hawke's Bay Today about her horrific experience.
"I was just standing next to the cooker and she [Elizabelle] was at the other end of the deck, and then all of a sudden it just blew up," she said. "I just remember getting pushed back into the door and it broke the door."
She stumbled a little bit and ran to a classroom tap before getting into a shower at the school's sick bay. She was later taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital.
The explosion was close to her daughter who was at the opposite end of the deck when it occurred.
"The kids were using them earlier, so if it was one of the kids it would probably be their whole body [burned]. It would have got them worse than what I got," Mrs Tuimaualuga said.
The injuries to her arm meant she could not take part in her computing course and, when healed, would be too far behind in her work. . . "The kids are going to be missing out, pretty much, on Christmas because I can't afford a tree or presents," she said.
The support from Mayfair School and its staff had been "wonderful". The school had since removed from use all cookers of that particular type and, in future, staff were to set up all cooking situations.
An incident report by the NZ Fire Service found that the portable cooker had been used incorrectly and against product instructions. However, there was a history of similar accidents with such cookers and, as a result, it was investigating.
"I can confirm it's not the first incident of that nature around the country," NZ Fire Service national manager fire investigation Todd O'Donoghue said. "There have been around four or five other incidents ... in the last couple of years involving that type of cooker. In most, there has been a case of the manufacturers' instructions not being followed correctly.
"In light of the fact there's now been a small run of incidents, we're working with Energy Safety to do some further testing and look overseas if there has been any other incidents in order for us to ascertain the risk, and see if any other further action should be taken." He said the recorded incidents were attributed to various manufacturers. They were normally cookers housed in a plastic container and fuelled with a 220gm butane canister.
"Because they're a relatively cheap and affordable product for people to purchase ... I know that an awful lot of people use them ..."
The cooker used in the incident was a Campmaster product, a brand owned by Amalgamated Hardware Merchants.
Chief executive Wayne van Diepen said yesterday the company was sad to hear there had been an incident and that someone had been hurt.
"We stand behind our product and we're waiting for the appropriate authorities to finish their report before we make further comment," he said.