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Woman burned in camper fire in critical condition

July 17, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - A Brunswick, Md., woman was in critical condition Monday after most of her body was burned Sunday night in a flash fire fueled by a propane leak in a camper trailer in Morgan County, hospital and fire officials said.

Nichole Apolinares was being treated at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, her uncle, Roger Robertson, confirmed.

"It could go either way," Robertson said of his niece's medical condition.

Apolinares received burns to about 80 percent of her body when she attempted to light a propane-fueled cooking stove about 10 p.m. in the camper at Sleepy Creek on the Potomac campground off River Road, Robertson said.

According to Robertson, 62, the sudden flash of flames burned his 28-year-old niece's clothes off as she stood in front of the stove preparing to fry bacon.

"Everything went flying," including an object that struck him in the head, said Robertson, who was taken to City Hospital to be examined after being dazed by the blow.

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"It just tore everything off the wall."

Robertson said his wife, Beverly, and Apolinares' young daughter, Victoria, escaped serious injury.

"I'm doing pretty good," Robertson said in a telephone interview from his home off Allensville Road in Berkeley County.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Matthew Hutchinson was investigating whether the fire was caused by a malfunction of the camper's stove or the 20-pound propane tank fueling it, said Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief James Steiner, who said he returned to the fire scene on Monday with Hutchinson.

Steiner said the 12-by-24-foot camper trailer with a built-on porch was destroyed and two sport utility vehicles parked nearby were damaged.

Initially reported at 10 p.m. as a two-trailer fire, Steiner said firefighters from Hancock, who are stationed closest to the campground, were the first to arrive.

Campground owner Jerry Kidwell said he has known the Robertsons for five or six years and planned to give them a camper to use so the family could return to the campground, which is about seven miles from Hancock, where Sleepy Creek empties into the Potomac River.

"We're going to take up a donation for them next weekend," Kidwell said.

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