Richland Yacht Club fire victim in serious condition

By Paula Horton, Tri-City HeraldMay 18, 2012 

A 43-year-old Kennewick nanny remained in serious condition Thursday at a Seattle hospital after being severely burned when the boat she was on exploded into flames.

Donna Smith was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after the boat fire Monday near the Richland Yacht Club.

She suffered burns on 100 percent of her body, said Cris Mallory, a friend of Smith's husband, Rick.

"She was on the boat when it exploded," said Mallory, of Pasco. "She got completely engulfed in flames."

Rick Smith and Donna Smith are going through a divorce but they share custody of their 10-year-old daughter, Jenni, Mallory said.

The fire still is under investigation, but officials Monday said that Smith and her friend Mark Riggs reportedly were fueling the boat shortly before it caught fire.

Riggs reportedly suffered some first-degree burns to his legs but was released Monday night from Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.

Smith remained Thursday in the intensive care unit, a Harborview spokeswoman told the Herald on Thursday.

Mallory said Riggs did not have insurance on the boat, and Smith does not have medical insurance. She's expected to be at Harborview for at least a month -- possibly more.

"Her whole body is so swollen. She can't see because she's so badly burned," Mallory said.

The most serious third-degree burns cover her hands, arms, legs and face, Mallory said. Her back and chest -- essentially the areas that were covered by clothes -- have second-degree burns.

Donna Smith apparently was able to talk a little when she was in the emergency room at Kadlec before she was flown to Seattle but didn't remember much of what happened before the blaze.

Mallory said Riggs reported having a gas leak on the boat a few days earlier, but thought it had been fixed.

He apparently was near the engine, saw some flames and yelled at Smith before jumping in the water, Mallory said. She also apparently went into the water after the boat exploded and got help from bystanders on land.

Smith is expected to have surgery today, if she's well enough, Mallory said. Mallory, Rick Smith and Jenni are planning to go to Seattle today so Jenni can see her mother.

Donna Smith, who is a nanny and going to Charter College for a medical billing degree, also has two adult children. She's a member of the Living Room Church in Kennewick.

"This is a complete, total, life-changing ordeal," Mallory said.

Smith will have a long recovery ahead of her and Mallory said Smith's family is hoping the community can help.

Donations can be made to an account at HAPO credit union under a business in Smith's name, Klamath Internet.

Mallory said even if community members can't donate financially, "prayers will help."

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