A B.C. community is grieving the tragic death of a 13-year old girl who succumbed to complications from burns received at a backyard campfire.
Terrace’s Grace Peerless passed away at the B.C. Children’s Hospital at 1 a.m. May 26.
Grace’s mother, Lynn Peerless, said the family may never know how the flames reached her daughter, only that she was alone at the fire pit around 9 p.m., May 24, when her hair and clothes caught fire. Lynn believes a hot ember landed on her daughter’s clothing with hairspray acting as an accelerant.
“She’s from the north — she’s been around fire her whole life. She’s a scout. She wouldn’t just fall in,” Lynn said.
Lynn had heard her daughter’s screams then found her consumed in flames near the fire pit, she said. She yelled at Grace to stop, drop and roll while her 17-year-old son used a garden hose to douse the flames.
Grace was airlifted from Terrace’s Mills Memorial Hospital to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver where she was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit. According to the family Grace suffered mostly second-degree burns to 30 per cent of her upper body. Doctors told the family Grace’s likelihood of survival was as high as 95 per cent but complications quickly escalated and Grace passed away within 36 hours of the accident.
“Everyone is stunned. I mean the doctors don’t even understand why,” said Lynn. “I was ready to help her through a very long recovery…at least she would be alive.”
The BC Coroners Service can only confirm a Terrace female in her early teens was airlifted to the B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver May 24 and pronounced deceased May 26. No other information is available until the coroner’s investigation is complete.
The Peerless family was told today, May 29, it could take longer than a year to receive the report that may explain the complications leading to Grace’s death, and perhaps how the flames ignited in her hair and clothing in the first place.
As condolences spread to the family through social media, Grace was remembered as a consummate storyteller, a happy teenager and an adventurous scout.
“It’s amazing how many people are coming forward, and I’m learning just how many people’s lives she touched,” Lynn said. “She was a true floater, someone who could drift through every crowd. It didn’t matter if your family was on welfare or you were the richest kid in school, she’d treat you the same.”
On Monday morning at the doors to Skeena Middle School, where Grace was a student, a makeshift memorial had sprung up as people dropped off flowers and notes.
School District 82 Superintendent of Schools, Katherine McIntosh, said resources were available to help everyone at the school move through the difficult time.
“Our staff and students share a heartfelt sadness around the loss of this young life,” she said in an email. “At times like this, as everyone else in our community, our hearts go out to the family and relatives.”
A celebration of life has been planned for Tuesday, June 5 at 4 p.m at Terrace’s the REM Lee Theater. A reception will follow.
The family says they’ve incurred close to $10,000 in expenses for travel and funeral arrangements, for which a crowdfund page has been set up at GoFundMe.com under Remembering Grace Peerless.