A nurse has been left with serious burns after a portable heater exploded in a pub garden in Suffolk.
Ashleigh Charlesworth, 27, suffered severe burns to her face, chest and hands after the explosion at the Kings Head pub in Great Cornard on 24 April.
Charlesworth was rushed to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, where she was put on a ventilator for two days.
Two others, including Charlesworth’s cousin who asked not to be named, were injured in the blast.
It is believed a customer had brought in the portable heater to the pub.
Charlesworth, who worked as a paediatric nurse at Colchester Hospital before moving to Virgin Care, has needed a skin graft on her hands taken from the skin on her legs.
She also has to wear a special face mask that will help to heal her facial burns and prevent potential infection.
Her father Paul Charlesworth said: "Someone brought a heater to the pub but it exploded and Ashleigh and her cousin got sprayed in the face.
"They were badly burned and taken to hospital. Ashleigh was put on a ventilator for two days and needed operations on her hands.
"The doctors are trying their hardest not to do anything to her face as they hope the skin can heal itself.
"She’s having to wear a special mask on her face still as these types of burns can carry on damaging skin for days."
Paul, 55, from Colchester, said it is too early to tell what degree burns Ashleigh has suffered.
He said: "She is in extreme pain and needs to have her skin chemically cleaned."
"It’s so unfortunate as she is such a hero who does so much for the NHS," he added.
Charlesworth’s sister Stacey, who has set up a Gofundme page to help with her recovery added that it is too soon to know whether she might need surgery on her face.
"She has quite deep burns along the left side of her face and around her left ear,” Stacey said. “It's quite shocking - it's not just a little scald.”
Stacey added that her sister did not realise what had happened until after the heater had exploded.
She said: "Because Ashleigh was sat side-on to where the heater was, she didn't actually see what happened until it was too late."
Charlesworth has worked as a nurse throughout the pandemic and has also administered Covid vaccines.
The Kings Head pub was closed in the days following the incident - but the pub 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 wrote that the heating appliance “was not one supplied by the pub, but was brought onto the premises without our knowledge.
"At the moment, we have three of our customers with serious injuries, potentially life-changing.
"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.
"We would also like to say a thank you to all the emergency services who attended on Saturday evening, as well as our staff and other customers that assisted at the time."
Suffolk Police, who are appealing for information, 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.
"The three people, two females and one male, remain in hospital after sustaining serious injuries, which are not believed to be life-threatening but are potentially life-changing."
Police said anyone with information is asked to contact Suffolk police, quoting incident number: 37/20827/21 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
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