Dad haunted by seeing daughter on fire

By Sam Hurley

The father of a 5-year-old Flaxmere girl who suffered horrific burns when her skirt caught fire says he and the girl's twin sister will be forever haunted by the harrowing night.

Joedecy Huata-Miria's ballet dress went up in flames when she moved close to a gas heater at her grandmother's Flaxmere home last Saturday.

Tuakana Miria has been with his daughter at Middlemore Hospital since Tuesday; his partner, Michelle Huata, has been at her bedside since Joedecy was flown to Auckland on the night of the accident, after initially being treated at Hawke's Bay Hospital for burns covering her body from the chest down.

"It's only the start of our journey, we will be here for at least 10 months," he said.

"I struggle to handle all this stuff - it will hurt for a long time. A father is supposed to be there for his kids."

Joedecy's twin sister, Faedecy, witnessed the entire ordeal and their father said it was as if she was living in and through her sister's pain.

"We've had to talk to the psychologist about the things she's been doing, things she's been remembering from that night.

She's seen it all.

"Every time she comes into the hospital her personality changes, it comes right down. For a little 5-year-old girl it's been really sad, she has been traumatised."

Mr Miria hopes and prays for Joedecy, who is undergoing daily operations to most of her body. Doctors have indicated treatment, including temporary skin grafts, have been successful, while she remains stable in the hospital's intensive care unit.

"She's still heavily sedated, everything is going to plan, the doctors said," Mr Miria said.

"Jojo's been breathing by herself and they told me that was a really good sign - she is aware but never fully awake."

An emotional Mr Miria said his daughter wouldn't have survived had it not been for the heroics of her grandfather, who acted quickly and without fear as he smothered the fire and rushed the 5-year-old to the shower.

"The way he tells the story of that night, it's just so horrific, it's like I was there and I can feel it, see it all happening. His hand is all fat and when I asked him how he did that he just said: 'don't worry about that', but it was from him putting out the fire with his hands.

"My dad's got a heart of stone and it's not like him to break down," he said.

"It's just so scary and a few seconds longer it would have been all over. He got there just in time, I'm so proud of my dad," said the 27-year-old, fighting off tears.

He told Hawke's Bay Today last Sunday he didn't recognise his baby when he turned up to her grandma's house. On arrival an ambulance was outside and, fearing the worst, he ran into the house to find his daughter lying in the shower.

"What I saw was all black, I Family relive girl's pain didn't even know it was my girl."

He said the support he and Joedecy had received from family, friends and strangers had been overwhelming.

"We have had so much support every day, we get like 100 messages a day coming to us all. It's all my baby needs and we read them to her every day," he said.

"She lights up everyone's life."

The family is staying at the Whanau house at Middlemore Hospital, designed to accommodate patients' family members in an emergency situation.

"Everyone up here has been really good, so lovely and kind to my family. We have not had to worry about where we stay."

Mr Miria said his children are everything to him after raising them as a stay-at-home dad, while his partner worked.

"It's going to be a long journey but my baby will be OK. We are all here, just waiting for her to open her eyes."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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