A motor home that a family had been living in ignited following an explosion late Monday in Washington County, critically burning the father and two of his children.
About 10 p.m., the Blue Bird bus that had been converted into an RV ignited in Veyo. When firefighters got there, flames were coming out of the top of the bus, and it was nearly fully engulfed, according to a statement from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Residents on scene helped with the injured children as a sheriff’s deputy remained with the father, attending to his injuries until medical personnel arrived to assist him.
The father and two children were taken to St. George Regional Hospital and then were transferred to a burn unit in Las Vegas due to the severity of their injuries, according to the fundraiser.
Greg Copeland said his son and daughter-in-law, Kyle and Whitney Copeland, converted the bus into an RV to travel across the country with their children — a dream come true for the family. They “finished enough of their bus” to begin their adventure in August, according to a post on the family’s social media page.
On Monday while parked outside a friend’s home, the couple was attaching a trailer when their third child got off the bus to tell them the propane heater was making noises.
“At that moment is when the explosion occurred,” Greg Copeland said.
The oldest son had been asleep but woke up and noticed the curtains on fire. He was able to jump through the window head-first, he said.
Whitney Copeland ran to get inside the bus for their remaining two children, but her husband pushed her out of the way and ran into the flames. He grabbed his 3-year-old son and pulled his 11-year-old daughter off the bus with him.
“As a dad you hope you have the hero in you to go into a fire and save your kids,” Copeland said of his son’s actions. “I’ll be honest with you. The very fact that he went into the fire to save his kids, I don’t know. That’s amazing to me. That’s heroic to me.”
The daughter suffered burns over 80% of her body, according to the grandfather, while the 3-year-old and Kyle Copeland received burns on their hands, back and faces. They were all hospitalized in critical condition as of midday Tuesday and had been intubated and sedated.
The mom suffered burns on her hands from helping her children get out of the RV. The two other children were taken to the hospital as a precaution, the sheriff’s office said.
Kyle Copeland, who is listed as regional sales director at Idaho-based Bug Out Bus, served in the Air Force for six years, according to his father.
The community has rallied around the family to support them. Copeland said he’s heard from people around the country.
“I got to tell you, the outpouring of support has been phenomenal,” he said.
“I’ve gotten texts from my son’s primary teachers. From my son’s soccer coach in high school. All reaching out to see how he’s doing. It’s just a bit overwhelming to be honest with you.”
Greg Copeland confirmed the family lost everything in the fire.
“Their motorhome was their only home and transportation and is a total loss. So this tragedy leaves their family essentially ‘homeless,’ and with no earthly possessions left,” a GoFundMe account set up to cover their expenses states.
On the couple’s public Instagram page, they had shared photos of the process of converting the bus into a van.
“After years filled with military separations, addiction recovery and medical trauma we as a family are committed to making up for lost time together,” the couple’s Instagram biography reads.
The friends who set up the fundraising effort also asked for prayers for the family, as they likely face a long recovery.
The Utah state fire marshal is investigating.
Contributing: Matt Rascon