Sky is the limit for burns victim

IT was a story that touched the hearts of Coffs Harbour residents 15 years ago.

Little Caley Tapscott suffered life-threatening burns when her mobile home exploded in Grafton Street and in the years since, she’s endured painful surgery and rehabilitation.

But the now 23-year-old is a picture of health and happiness and only days ago embarked on a new career in the Defence Forces to the delight of her parents Peter and Bernadette.

“There are a lot of people who would be wondering what became of that poor little girl,” Peter said. “Every time I look at her I get a lump in my throat because we almost lost her.

“We were there for her passing out parade last week from the RAAF at Wagga. I know she’s my daughter and everyone says this about their kid but we’re so proud of her and we want the whole world to know.

“She is outgoing, bubbly, full of life and loves life and everyone she meets will never forget her.”

The Tapscotts will never forget that dreadful night back on March, 18, 1995, when their lives were changed forever.

They had just returned from the Bellingen markets in their mobile home and their Coffs Harbour Spud train and were setting up for business at the then Mobil Service Station.

Bernadette was in the van with Caley, seven, and James, eight, when a leaking gas cylinder was ignited by the pilot flame on the hot water system.

The accident prompted a major rescue effort as bystanders and emergency crews rushed to the aid of the family.

Caley sustained third degree burns to 30 per cent of her body and first and second degree burns to another 20 per cent and the Tapscotts were warned to prepare for the worst.

She spent the next four months in a burns unit in Sydney where she underwent intensive treatment and physiotherapy and psychology sessions.

Caley had to wear a full body pressure suit for nearly three years.

The Tapscotts eventually re-established their business in Coffs Harbour but later moved to Portland in Victoria to be closer to relatives.

When she left Year 12, Caley worked for a company which made wind turbine blades at Portland and bought her first home when she was only 18.

She also worked for Boeing Aerospace and managed a jeweller’s shop before her enlistment with the RAAF.

She’s graduated from the Wagga base as an aircraft woman and she is now based at Williamtown near Newcastle. Next year she will apply herself to training as an air surveillance operator.

“Anything is possible when you have family and friends around you. They are really important,” Caley said.

“I’m very lucky. I have an amazing and close family and they’ve had a lot to do with what I’ve achieved.”

She says her memories of the night of the explosion remain vivid 15 years on but ‘they’re not so bad anymore I guess’.

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