9 year old girl
burnt over 50% of her body
in 1999 auto refueling fire
Jennifer Hazen, Editor
September 4, 2002
16, 1999 started like any other day. The Canfora family was headed
out to dinner about 6 p.m. They stopped for gasoline at a Henderson
Gas Station. (near Las Vegas) The next few minutes would change
their lives forever.
Christine Canfora was driving the 1995
white Camaro. After she stopped at the station, she got out and
headed in to pay for the gasoline ( approximately $5 worth). 9 year
old Alexis was in the back seat of the car and called to her mother,"
Mom, can I pump gas?" Her mother said "yes" and looked
to her father, Alex, to let her out of the car. Mr. Canfora leaned
forward and Alexis slid out of the back seat.
Many people would say, "I
would not let my 9 year old pump gas." Now, this reporter would
say that, but before the series we are publishing on auto refueling
fires, I might have also said, "yes." How many of us,
especially boys, started cutting grass and filling the lawn mowers
with gasoline at this early age? How many of us
have ridden and refueled mo-ped's and go-carts? Hopefully these
days of unwarned dangers are over for all of us.
Alexis opened the fuel door of the
car, took off the gas cap, chose the grade of gasoline, then with
both hands pumped a few gallons of gasoline into the car. She noticed
something was wrong and there were flames coming out of the fuel
port of the car. She took the nozzle out of the car and then tried
to put it back again probably because of the gasoline still being
pumped from the nozzle. Alexis held the nozzle out in front of her
and called for her dad to help. Mr. Canfora said that Alexis yelled,
"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy." The gasoline was being pumped on
the car, the ground and splashing back onto Alexis at about 8 gallons
Mr. Canfora ran to help Alexis. Before
he could reach her, the fumes from all the gasoline ignited from
the fire at the fuel port opening. Dad and daughter were engulfed
in a flash. Both were burned but Alexis received the most burns
due to her clothing being ignited with all the splashed gasoline.
A man who witnessed the event helped put the fire out on Alexis.
Alexis had to undergo many many operations
and skin grafts. She is very strong in the face of such a tragedy.
She is now (in 2002) 12 years old and a very good student. She will
have to live with the scars and reconstructive and plastic surgeries
of the future. Luckily, Alexis was not burned on her face.
causes of the fire is without a doubt static induced. The actual
source of the static is not known for certain. One thing is certain,
the timing of Alexis getting out of the car, opening the fuel door,
removing the fuel cap, selecting the gasoline, pumping a few gallons
in a two fisted grip, does not allow the source of static to be
Alexis herself. She was totally discharged. This means the "other"
sources of static were to blame. The fuel pumping system - pump,
hose, nozzle- may have caused the static build up from the flowing
gasoline. We have found evidence of fires at fuel hose sysetms in
our investigation of thesimilar incidents.The fuel system of the
car may have had some contribution to the ignition.
The main thing to remember when
we think of Alexis, is to not pull the nozzle out of the car if
there is a fuel port fire. The splashing of gasoline caused the