Victim of Peoria home explosion, Tiara Del Rio, speaks out

PEORIA, AZ - A remarkable Valley woman who nearly burned to death when her Peoria home exploded is now talking about the tragedy and the amazing procedure used to help her heal.

In October 2013, Tiara Del Rio and her boyfriend Beau Zimbro had returned home to relax.

"He was sitting on the chair and I went to go light a candle, instead of lighting the candle it blew up in my face," recalls Del Rio. She pauses as she explains to reporters that she can remember everything very clearly.

"Beau was rolling because he was on fire, I was in panic because I was on fire," said Del Rio.

Zimbro pushed Del Rio out the window then told her to "Stop, Drop and Roll," a lesson firefighters often teach grade school students.

It's at that time Del Rio noticed a police officer and nurse who had rushed to the scene.

"They doused us with water because we just wanted to be covered in water, because we were burning," said Del Rio.

As Del Rio and Zimbro were being doused with water, a second explosion rocked their home.   

"We wouldn't have made it out if we were still in that house," she explains.

Nearly four months later, Del Rio has a new lease on life.

With a shy and light laugh she explains, "I was Dr. Foster's guinea pig."

Over half of Del Rio's body was severely burned in the explosion including her hands, arms, legs and face. There wasn't much usable skin areas left for skin grafting.

But Dr. Kevin Foster and his colleagues were working on an experimental procedure called "ReCell."

ReCell is a skin spray that uses actual skin. Unlike grafting that requires large amounts of skin, the skin spray uses a small amount to cover large areas of the body.

"We found that if you spray the skin over the meshed skin grafts with holes in it, it looks really, really good," explained  Foster.

Doctors also used the new product to help Del Rio's face heal. Skin grafting on the face often leaves heavy scarring, but the new product uses a medical grade honey to help it heal.

"I know it doesn't look perfect right now, but a year from now you're going to be hard pressed to know that she ever had a burn on her face," said Foster.

Del Rio will leave the Arizona Burn Center for an acute rehab center on Friday. 

She refuses to wallow in losses, preferring to count her blessings instead.

"You know I can't really complain. I just know I have skin on my legs and I'm walking. I have a brighter future," said Del Rio with a soft smile.

The Arizona Burn Center skin spray has also been used on Del Rio's boyfriend Beau and another patient. 

It's giving burn survivors hope. 

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