By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
Amanda Allen woke up in her own bed yesterday having a panic attack from a nightmare, slapping at her chest, trying to put the flames out.
The 24-year-old Onalaska woman was scared, but not as frightened as she was on Friday night at the fireworks show near Oakville when an errant mortar struck her in the mouth and shot down inside her zipped up jacket.
It felt like she’d been hit with a baseball, she said.
“Out of nowhere, I get hit in the face,” Allen said. “I see bright lights, I felt like I was on fire; I was on fire.”
Allen recalls trying to rip off her burning coat, and three tribal police appearing, attempting to help remove her flaming clothing.
Much of what followed is a blur, she said.
“I was in shock, I couldn’t believe it happened, she said.
The Onalaska resident said she was at a friend’s place in Rochester on Friday, and they decided to go watch the Fourth of July show at the Chehalis reservation, something she’d never done before.
They spent time enjoying the concessions with hot dogs and ice cream and watching the numerous fireworks before settling down in the grass near the tribal center for the big event that began after dark.
“There were people all around us, little children, old people,” she said. “There were fountains and ground hogs, and then the people to the right of us were doing bigger ones in the road.”
Her friend Skylar Christoffer said he saw a cake-type device fall over, and it was pointed toward the four of them and the 5-year-old boy sitting next to him, she said.
“He grabbed Ryan and threw him into Travis’s arms,” he said. “Then he was helping me.”
Firefighters were called about 10:45 p.m. to the incident on Neiderman Road, they called for LifeFlight out of Longview and set up a helicopter landing zone, according to Grays Harbor County Fire District 1 Chief Kevin Witt.
It was one of two fireworks-related injuries they responded to there that night, Witt said.
Allen spent the next two days in the burn unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, being treated for burns from her neck down almost to her belly button, she said. Her lip was split open.
She’s feeling fortunate she still has her teeth and was so relieved to discover her nipple was not burned off, she said.
“They said they don’t think my lip will scar too badly,” she said. “They’re not sure about my chest, neck, chin and fingers, because scarring can up to a year to heal,” he said.
It hurts pretty bad, she said yesterday.
She’s home and won’t be able to work; she’s a caregiver for her 20-year-old bedridden brother, she said. She expects to spend time resting, watching movies, and trying to heal.
“One thing I’m worried about, I don’t want to look like Freddy Krueger, I don’t want people to stare at me,” Allen said. “I don’t want to be a sideshow.”
She’s grateful to the first responders, who tried to be gentle, but not very happy with whoever was setting off big fireworks so close to a crowd.
“My mom called the tribal police, they said they got so many stories, they don’t know,” Allen said. “I don’t want to sue them, I don’t want to press charges. I just want them to know I’m pretty messed up, physically and mentally.”