Graphic: Borrello family patient story

Family's dream holiday up in smoke

Date published

12 Mar 2021

Kaitlyn Borrello’s ears were ringing. Her upper body was covered in burns and her son was crying at the sight of her soot-stained face and charred hair. In shock, Kaitlyn clutched her screaming sons as she took in the fire consuming her camper trailer.

Borrello family retrieval

It started as a dream vacation. Kaitlyn was holidaying in the stunning surrounds of Coral Bay with her husband Santo and their two sons in August last year.

A calm afternoon lunch at a local caravan park turned into a terrifying ordeal after a flame shot out from their cooker and caused an explosion in the annex of their camper trailer.

Kaitlyn and Santo suffered second and third degree burns respectively as they desperately tried to escape the blaze and get their boys to safety who thankfully were unscathed by the fire.  

Outside, it was pandemonium. 

In what was an overwhelming display of the Aussie community spirit, bystanders worked to put out the fire and grabbed any bottled water they could find to douse their burns.  

At the local nursing post, their burns were assessed as severe and extensive, with the closest specialist treatment available in Perth.  

Crew from the RFDS Meekatharra base were tasked to respond and retrieve the family to Fiona Stanley Hospital’s burns unit located more than 1,100km away – a journey that would’ve taken more than 11 hours by road.  

“I had no idea what to expect, what was going to happen, what the RFDS was or how much it was going to cost our family. 

I was incredibly stressed as I had no idea how we were going to pay for the RFDS,” Kaitlyn said.

“It was a relief to everyone when the RFDS crew walked in. They immediately took charge of the situation and jumped straight into helping set Santo’s shoulder which he dislocated while trying to escape.

Borrello family visits RFDS Jandakot base

Kaitlyn remembers feeling reassured by the calm and caring nature of the RFDS crew who explained what was happening with Santo’s treatment and joked with the kids to help calm them down. 

The crew were also able to manage aircraft weight restrictions to ensure the whole family were able to fly down together.“The whole crew went above and beyond to make one of the worst days of our lives have a few moments of joy and laughter,” Kaitlyn shared.

“The RFDS saved us in more ways than one that day. We are all so lucky that the RFDS came to our aid when we needed it the most. We are deeply thankful for everything the RFDS does.”

Six months on, the Borrello family report Santo has a long road of physiotherapy ahead for his shoulder injury, their burns are healing remarkably well but they remain very nervous around fire, with fire safety the new normal.

Like many WA families who have been exploring our great state over the past few months, the Borrello family never expected to need our services, but are grateful the RFDS was able to bring help closer in their time of need.

Once their camper trailer is repaired, the Borrello family are keen to explore WA’s regions again – this time safe in the knowledge that the RFDS is there when things go wrong.

The RFDS is a free service. Your donations help us be there for unexpected emergencies.

Recent calls for help for holiday-related incidents include sting ray injuries, snake bites, motor vehicle accidents, and a parachuting injury.