Badly burned tots started fire with lighter

Gisborne police have confirmed that a car fire that badly burned two pre-schoolers in Gisborne was caused by a barbecue lighter found by the children, left alone in the car while their mother went shopping.

Manaia Namana-Rowe, aged 3, and her 22-month-old brother, Rious, suffered serious burns outside the SuperCheap Auto store in Gisborne on April 4.

A Fire Service investigation has determined the fire was accidental.

The girl found a barbecue lighter in the car's console and accidentally set the driver's seat on fire.

Police say no decision has been made on whether criminal charges will be laid.

Eastern District communications manager Kris McGehan said that "all sorts of things" were still under investigation.

No time-frame could be given for any decision on whether to prosecute the mother.

"It is not as quick as it may seem," she said.

Former Hawke's Bay Magpies captain Mutu Ngarimu, who runs a business nearby, was hailed a hero for his quick action at the scene.

He ran out with a fire extinguisher and put out the flames, removing the children, while in a team effort passers-by gave first aid - including CPR on the girl.

A witness said it was an horrific scene.

"Their skin was hanging off them. The mother was just standing in the carpark, bawling her eyes out," he said.

The girl suffered burns to 40 per cent of her body and her brother 20 per cent.

The children initially were in a critical condition and now are in a fair condition in Auckland's Middlemore hospital.

Ms McGehan said both children had been interviewed as part of the investigation "as much as you can with children that age and in that situation".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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