Boy burnt so badly by beach BBQ he needed skin graft warns of dangers

Burns foot

A young boy’s harrowing barbecue accident which left him temporarily unable to walk and in need of a skin graft has inspired a fundraising campaign.

Will Tyler, who was just nine years old at the time, stepped on hot sand where a beach barbecue had previously been sat – severely scarring both his feet and leaving him needing urgent medical treatment.

His dad had to run across sand dunes, carrying him for 20 minutes in summer heat, to get back to the car so his mum could drive him to hospital.

The surgery and care Will received at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital inspired him to start fundraising for the hospital’s charity.

On the one-year anniversary of his accident, 1 June 2021, Will will begin his eight fundraising challenges, which vary from an 8km walk to eight random acts of kindness.

He will also be revisiting Formby Beach where his accident happened, in the hopes of raising awareness of the dangers of barbecues on sand.

All the money Will raises will go to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity.

Will, now 10, said: "I wanted to do some fundraising themed around the number eight because that’s how many nights I was in the children’s hospital.

"It was really difficult because it was last year during lockdown so my sister Lily and my dad weren’t able to visit me, I was only with my mum. But all the nurses were nice to me and everyone on the ward was really kind.

"It was hard because my injury was really painful but then the dressing changes were sometimes as painful as when I burnt myself. I also couldn’t walk for a while and I had to use a wheelchair and then crutches."

Will, parents Toby and Claire, 44, sister Lily, 12, and their friends the Morley family, had decided to leave their homes in Stockport to have a day at the beach when the accident happened.

They had purposefully hiked across the sand dunes at Formby to keep away from the crowds and so were far away from their cars. 

They set up a disposable barbecue to enjoy some sausage sandwiches, and then once the barbecue had cooled, moved it to one side, far away from the children, so the youngsters could run around and play. 

Tony, Will's dad, said: “Everyone I’ve told this story to just cannot believe how sand can stay that hot.

"We’d used one of those disposable barbecues where the coals are in a foil tray. The bottom of the tray was on the sand, which I now know meant the heat was being sent down into the sand and the foil surface was trapping it there.

"When we moved the barbecue, the top of the sand cooled in the atmosphere, but underneath it was still roasting hot as the heat had just been trapped there.

"We learned later it can stay dangerously hot for hours and hours.

"The kids were running around playing when suddenly Will just screamed. As a parent, it’s the worst sound I’d ever heard and it’s a sound I’ll never forget. He pulled his foot out of the sand and his skin was peeling off his foot like melted wax. 

“We realised the sand was scalding hot and we were miles from anywhere with no first aid kit or anyone to help us. I ran carrying him to the car – by the time I got there I was soaking wet with sweat. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it but seeing Will’s foot….I guess the adrenalin just kicked in.” 

Claire drove Will to a nearby hospital about 30 minutes away from the beach before he was taken to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

From there it was a slow recovery process, initially spending nine days and eight nights in hospital unable to have visitors other than his mum, and in a lot of pain.

Will relied on a wheelchair at first then progressed to a walking frame and crutches and eventually was able to walk unaided again.

But he still has to look after his feet – wearing compression socks 23 hours a day and a splint at night, moisturizing his skin and massaging the skin to reduce bumps in the scar tissue.

“He also took part in the hospital’s Burns Camp which he really loved. It’s a camp they have every summer, but this time it was virtual, and he thought it was amazing. Hopefully he’ll get to experience a real-life one this year.”

It is the Burns Camp and his treatment at the hospital that inspired Will and the Tylers to fundraise for Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity.

Will has set himself an '8 Days in June Challenge', with the money going towards Burns and Plastic Surgery Paediatric Services and the Burns Camp.

Credit: Tyler family photo

All themed around the number eight, to represent the eight days he spent in hospital, Will will be taking part in the following:

  • 1 June – an 8km walk at Formby Beach

  • 3 June –  8km paddle in the Mersey River

  • 9 June - eight friends will have a head shave in 8 minutes

  • Eight random acts of kindness 

  • Baking an eight-layer cake for all the staff at the Burns Unit, with a little help from Granny

  • An eight-minute ice bath 

  • “Eight foods” taste challenge

  • Eight nights sleeping out

In addition, the family and Toby’s school, Great Moor Community Infant School, where Toby is a teacher, will be taking part in Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity’s Be Seen in Green…or Blue day.

This event encourages people to dress in green for the hospital, blue for the NHS or a mixture of the two and make a donation to the Charity. 

Will said: “As well as raising the money, I really want to raise awareness of how dangerous it is having a barbecue on the sand. We didn’t know how hot the sand would get, or that it would stay hot for such a long time.”

To donate head to Will's fundraising page.