Gordon Henderson, MP

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The news of an MP suffering severe burns after attempting to light a bonfire using petrol has placed the issue of safety in the garden in the public spotlight.

Without due care, the space that we usually enjoy with relaxation time can quickly become the scene of a horrific accident, as Claire Roantree – Head of Personal Injury – explains.

“One moment of thoughtlessness”

Gordon Henderson, Conservative MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, suffered major burns on 30% of his body after using petrol to light a garden bonfire.

Using the accident as a warning to others, the MP posted details, and an accompanying image, of the incident on his Facebook page.

Describing the accident as a “horrendous experience”, the MP explains that he regularly has bonfires in his garden and even has a purpose built enclosure for such events.

The post goes on to describe how the enclosure begun to build up petrol fumes each time the MP used small amounts of the flammable liquid, and “one moment of thoughtlessness” caused these fumes to explode and cause severe burns.

Long road to recovery

In the immediate aftermath of the accident, Mr Henderson’s wife doused him with water from a garden hosepipe that was thankfully on hand.

Rushing to an Accident & Emergency department, the MP’s arduous – and painful – road to recovery began with nurses bringing down his skin temperature.

Due to the seriousness of the burns, Mr Henderson was transferred to a specialist burns unit, where he spent 10 days recovering.

Despite being released and claiming that the pain of the incident has somewhat subsided, it is likely that the MP will continue to feel tender and sore for the coming months.

Mr Henderson’s burns were deemed superficial, meaning they were not deep enough to require skin grafts, however such burns are alleged to be amongst the most painful, as they affect the most sensitive nerves on the body.

Always practice caution

The MP explained that he posted the details of the incident as a warning to others and described how one of the medical professionals who administered his care told him that the majority of burns that they treat involve petrol.

Responding to the incident, Claire says:

“The horrific incident of Conservative MP Gordon Henderson highlights the grave importance of exercising caution in the garden. Despite owning purpose built equipment and having used petrol to light a bonfire many times before, the MP found himself with serious burns because of one slip in concentration.”

“I commend Mr Henderson on sharing the details of the incident on such a public forum as Facebook and hope that the post achieves its goal of highlighting the dangers of bonfires.”

“Bonfires are usually associated with a party atmosphere and are often enjoyed by entire families, Mr Henderson’s accident should teach people that even if you are confident and have used petrol to light a bonfire before something can go wrong in the blink of an eye.”

“There are many safe ways to light a bonfire and enjoy this favoured pastime and it is crucial that basic safety measures are followed.”

“Mr Henderson should feel thankful that a hosepipe was on hand to douse the flames, this story could have had a much more serious outcome if his wife hadn’t acted so instinctively.”

“Having seen the horrific physical and psychological effects of serious burns, it’s so important to remain vigilant when handling fire – there are long-lasting consequences to severe burns and in many cases the years of physical pain and recovery is accompanied with PTSD, as victims try to move past the sheer terror of the incident.”

Written by Claire Roantree

For more information on personal injury and the services offered by Simpson Millar, please call

0808 129 3304

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