A Riverina community is banding together after a horrific accident during Mad Monday celebrations ended with a man airlifted to Sydney.
More than $17,000 has been raised in a fundraising campaign for Semi Tafili, who suffered serious burns in an explosion just 24 hours after he took to the field for the Yenda Blueheelers in the Group 20 first grade grand final.
According to police, a group of revelers at Yenda’s Wade Park were lighting a fire using petrol as an accelerant when it exploded behind Tafili around 6.30pm Monday.
The flames, which paramedics say burned for 15 seconds, caused burns to 10 per cent of the prop’s body.
Paramedics treated Mr Tafili at the scene and he was flown to Sydney’s Concord Hospital with burns to his face, back and torso. He remains there in a critical but stable condition.
Another man was injured and taken to Griffith Base Hospital for treatment, according to police.
The football community is now rallying behind Mr Tafili, with a GoFundMe campaign established on Tuesday raising more than three times the initial goal of $5000.
“Lets support him and his beautiful fiance… every little bit helps,” the page reads.
The fundraising will go towards covering medical expenses and travel costs.
Blueheelers secretary Sam Panarello said the club is focused on supporting Mr Tafili after the tragic accident.
“Semi is in good care now and should make a full recovery. He is always in contact with his family and his friends,” Mr Panarello said.
“It was just one of those things. After stoking the fire it backfired and exploded behind him. It could have happened to anyone.
“It makes you want to reassure yourself that you follow the correct procedures for lighting fires.”
While the blow has rattled the team, Mr Panarello said it hadn’t put a dampener on the Blue Heelers year.
The team had came out of the Group 20 grand final loss against the Waratah’s just the day before.
“We are all going to support him through this,” Mr Panarello said.
Mr Tafili was recently named in the Group 20 representative side due to take on Group Nine on Saturday.
While police say the accident does not appear suspicious, investigations are continuing.