- Eliot Kleinberg Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A promising St. Lucie County high school softball player was in critical condition — and in a medically induced coma — at a suburban Miami hospital Wednesday after an accident at a New Year’s Eve bonfire burned 95 percent of her body, according to authorities and friends.
Layne Chesney, 14, was hurt in a friend’s backyard in suburban Fort Pierce. The friend and his father, who tried to smother the flames on her, also are hospitalized with burns.
A man who answered the phone Wednesday at Layne’s home said the family did not want to talk to reporters.
Layne, who lives north of Fort Pierce and about a mile from the Indian River County line, had gone to the home of Hunter Holmes, 18, southwest of Fort Pierce and about 20 minutes from her home.
At about 9:30 p.m., a St. Lucie County sheriff’s report said, Layne was sitting at the fire pit. She picked up the gasoline can to pour more fuel on the bonfire. The can exploded, enveloping her in flame.
Hunter and his father, Robert Scott Holmes, 51, and mother, Stephanie Holmes, 53, all burned their hands trying to swat the flames, the report said.
Firefighters and deputies found Layne covered her with blankets and towels. Robert Holmes was soaking her with a garden hose. The teen was able to give her name and say what happened.
All four burn victims were taken to Lawnwood Medical Center in Fort Pierce. The mother was driven by another son and the other three went by ambulance.
Layne and Robert and Hunter Holmes later were taken by air ambulance to Kendall Regional Medical Center, west of Miami. Spokesman Peter Jude said Wednesday the Holmeses were in fair condition and Layne remained in critical condition.
By 6 p.m.Wednesday, a money-raising page for Layne already had raised about $12,600 toward its $20,000 goal.
According to the page, Layne suffered third-degree burns on 90 percent of her body.
Layne plays on a travel softball team, the Jensen Beach Wildcats, which won a national championship this summer, director Mike Cusimano said Wednesday.
He said the girl’s grandfather has told him she is in a medically induced coma.
Cusimano said Layne plays shortstop on the varsity softball team at Lincoln Park Academy, where she is in ninth grade.
“She is a highly recruited prospect for college. She’s been going to camps. She’s a heck of a ballplayer. She’s a heck of a lady,” Cusimano said. “She is the bright spot on the day when she’s out there.”
Cusimano, who said he has directed the team for nine years, said he spoke for the team Monday night when about 200 people, including Layne’s teammates, held a vigil at Pineapple Park in Jensen Beach, where the team practices.
“I’ve been coaching 18 years. You start to question why you do it,” Cusimano said by phone Wednesday. “She reminded me why I do this. Always a smile on her face. Always there. Her attitude. Just her personality. She had an inner energy.”