Boy, 10, saves family as blanket burns


Neville Tohu and Elizabeth Mexted have no hesitation calling their 10-year-old son, Xavier, a hero after he woke his younger sister up and got them safely out of the house when the electric blanket they were sleeping on caught fire.

"He pretty much saved us all," Mr Tohu said.

Xavier and his sister Destinee, 8, were asleep in his bed when he awoke at around 5am on Sunday and could smell smoke.

The bedroom was full of thick smoke and his sister was difficult to rouse, the boy's father told the Advocate.

Destinee ran to her parents' room and told them something was on fire, while Xavier stripped the blanket from his bed and tried to put the fire out.

Ms Mexted said as soon as she heard the word fire it was all go.

"I just boosted out of bed and ran into the bedroom. It was full of smoke I couldn't even walk in to the room," Ms Mexted said.

She said Xavier and Destinee have always been very close, and Xavier's first concern was for his younger sister.

The couple have two younger daughters, Zhanae, 2, who was at her grandmother's and Aza-Leigh, 11 months, who was asleep in the parents' room.

Mr Tohu, a former fire safety advisor, threw the smouldering bedding outside and put the hose on it before taking the kids to Whangarei Hospital where they received oxygen and were treated for mild carbon monoxide poisoning.

"I'm just so thankful he woke up. It's not the flames that kill you, it's the poison, they told us at hospital," Ms Mexted said.

"We were still in shock until we saw them laying there [in hospital] and it all really hit home. How close we were to losing them."

The family home did not have smoke alarms.

"We know about them and how important they are but we kept putting it off," she said.

"It's definitely a real wake-up call."

Chief medical officer for Northland District Health Board Mike Roberts said carbon monoxide poisoning can have symptoms such as nausea, headaches and tiredness which are common to other less-serious illnesses.

"People exposed to carbon monoxide in higher levels can quickly become unconscious and may die," Mr Roberts said.

Specialist fire investigator for the Whangarei/Kaipara district Craig Bain said electric blankets need to be checked every couple of years.

They should be used to heat up the bed before sleep, laid flat against the mattress and never left on overnight.

He said it is also a timely reminder how important fire alarms are to every household.

Mr Tohu said the electric blanket had never been used before, and Xavier couldn't explain why he chose to put it on.

- Northern Advocate

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