A Kennewick High grad is recovering at a Utah hospital after being burned in an explosion at an abandoned mine shaft last weekend.
Lauren Thomas, 17, suffered second- and third-degree burns over about 21 percent of her body -- from her knees down to the bottom of her feet on both legs, said her aunt and uncle, April and Kevin Osborn.
Thomas has lived with the Osborns in their Kennewick home since December.
"We've just been very proud of her," April Osborn said. "She's just fighting. She's going to be OK, and we feel very, very lucky."
Thomas, who was visiting friends in Provo, Utah, was hurt July 16 after she went with them to an old mine shaft that reportedly is about 20 feet in diameter, 3,000 feet deep and is covered with a metal grate.
It apparently is a popular activity to drop glow sticks, fireworks and homemade bombs down the shaft. However, it also is dangerous and against the law, with Utah County sheriff's officials saying they have arrested people a number times at the mine shaft, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Osborn said her niece told her there were two groups of people throwing glow sticks and other things down the shaft when a third group showed up with a couple of gallons of gasoline.
Several spectators -- including Thomas -- were sitting on the grate with their legs dangling through the spaces when the jug of gasoline was knocked over. The spilled gas caused a series of two or three burning flashes and fireballs, then the wall of the mine shaft caught on fire, The Associated Press reported.
The scene turned chaotic as the spectators panicked while trying to free their legs from the grate.
"She remembers the explosion, and she remembers scrambling out, trying to get off the grate," April Osborn said. "A couple of her friends were not harmed very much and they were actually the ones that carried her and couple of the more seriously injured and crammed them in a car and started driving down."
Cell service is spotty in the remote area, so they called 911 as they drove to town and met the ambulances at the fire department in Payson, Utah. About a dozen people were burned -- six with serious injuries that required them to be taken to the University of Utah Health Care Burn Center in Salt Lake City.
That's where Thomas has been since about 3:30 a.m. July 17. She was the second-worst injured, her aunt said. A girl with the most severe injuries has burns covering about 37 percent of her body, Kevin Osborn said.
"I was scared to death ...," April Osborn said. "The most nerve-wracking thing was just to hear her on the phone and to get down there so we could hold her hand and see for ourselves that she was OK and hopefully lessen the panic that was inside us."
Thomas is the type of person who always is worried about people around her and was more concerned about the other girl who was severely hurt than herself, her family said.
"Lauren said all she remembers after the initial explosion was pain and hearing a girl scream at the top of her lungs," April Osborn said. "The boy that helped get her to the car said Lauren just kept asking, 'Where's the other girl? Did somebody help her?' "
Thomas had surgery Thursday for the skin grafts she needed on her more serious burns. Her uncle, who typically takes the night shift at the hospital to be with Thomas, said she is doing really well and could be released from the hospital within the next two weeks.
"She feels much better," Kevin Osborn said Friday. "The pain is a lot less with the grafting done."
Once she is released, she will return home to Kennewick where she will have to undergo physical therapy and other treatment, but her prognosis for a fully recovery is good.
Thomas plans to go to Brigham Young University-Idaho and doctors expect she will be able to start school as planned in the fall. She wants to be a teacher.
Kevin Osborn said his niece has been taking pictures of her injuries each day and wants pictures of the skin grafts once her bandages are removed.
"She's doing all this because she's hoping that if she ever comes across somebody who is burned, she wants to be able to talk about her experience," and how she recovered, he said.