VEYO, Utah, Dec. 28, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — An explosion inside a bus converted to a motorhome sent the father and two children to a Las Vegas burn unit for treatment of critical injuries Monday night.
Two other juvenile members of the six-person family were treated and released. The mother was uninjured.
Crews from multiple agencies responded to the Washington County scene, at 90 E. Center St., Veyo, after a call came to dispatch at 9:52 p.m.
“Upon arrival deputies saw a Blue Bird bus with flames coming out of the top of it and nearly fully engulfed,” a statement from the Washington County Sheriff’s office says. “The deputy on scene began to verify that all occupants were out of the vehicle, attended to patient injuries and relayed all information to dispatch so medical staff could be advised.”
The father and four children all sustained burns ranging from minor to severe, the WCSO statement says.
“Local residents on scene assisted with the injured children as the deputy remained with the adult male, attending to his injuries until medical personnel arrived to assist him. The adult male and two of the juveniles were transported to the hospital with severe burn injuries and two children were transported for precautionary measures.”
Dammeron Valley Fire & Rescue Chief Chet Barnes shared additional details with Gephardt Daily.
“We had multiple burn victims and a bus on fire,” Barnes said. “We had three critical patients and a total of five patients transported by Life Flight or ambulances.
“It was an extremely complicated setup, and really considered a mass casualty incident in addition to the bus that was fully involved. There was propane involved in the bus, so made it a little more challenging to get the fire out safely.”
Efforts to treat the victims and douse the propane-fueled fire took place simultaneously, Barnes said. The family members who were not transported to the Las Vegas burn unit were treated at a local hospital, and all have been released, Barnes said.
A GoFundMe account that says it was set up by family friends identifies those involved as Kyle and Whitney Copeland and their four children, two daughters and two sons. The family, which reportedly lives and travels in the motorhome, had been visiting Veyo, where it formerly lived, during the month of December.
“The father and two of the children were quickly Life Flighted to the hospital in St. George, Utah, then were immediately sent on via Life Flight to the specialized burn unit in Las Vegas due to the severity of their injuries,” the GoFundMe statement says. “They are in critical condition.
“Their motorhome was their only home and transportation, and is a total loss. So this tragedy leaves their family essentially homeless, and with no earthly possessions left. No car, no cell phones, no purse. no clothes, no bed, no toiletries, no winter gear. Nothing! Additionally, they likely face many months of travel and painful medical treatment and bills. The Copelands physical needs are immediate and many! They could also use many prayers right now, and all of us coming together to help them through this horrific tragedy.”
The statement asks for donations, and says “all funds will go directly to the family as soon as they are able to fill out the beneficiary paperwork.”
Copelands’ bus life
The Copelands chronicle their travels on the Instagram page Copelandbuslife. The page description says “After years filled with military separations, addiction recovery & medical trauma we as a family are committed to making up for lost time together.”
Veyo, a Washington County town of about 822 residents, is the topici of a Facebook page. A post there says the the front of the bus was badly burned, and the explosion blew out all the bus’ windows. It said the youngest son was the least injured of those involved, and the father, a daughter and a son were the ones transported to the Nevada burn unit.
Countywide rescue effort
Barnes, who served as the incident commander, said he is proud everyone who responded to the mass-casualty event, either in person or to cover for the multiple fire and law enforcement agencies that were called in.
“It was really a countywide response,” he said. “Gold Cross came up to transport, and Hurricane Valley and Santa Clara-Ivins fire departments were running medical calls in St. George to cover, so it was really countywide that people pitched in to mitigate this incident. I think its really important to emphasize how well that everybody and all the different agencies work together to provide the service.
“All those all those people just stepped up, and it was late and it was snowing. And there were there were a lot of challenges to the incident. And anytime children are involved, it makes it extremely difficult on the first responders. For everybody to come together like they did, I was just truly humbled by it.”
The Sheriff’s statement says a complete investigation will be conducted by the State Fire Marshal.
Gephardt Daily will have more on this developing story as information becomes available.