April 27, 2018 will long live in the memory of the Leonard family from Belcoo.

In an instant the life of Patrick Leonard changed forever.

Patrick was in France was doing a demonstration with poises, a performance art involving swinging tethered weights through a variety of rhythmical and geometric patterns with the ends on fire, at a local barbecue when his arm caught fire.

A friend, who in their haste to help Patrick extinguish the flames on his arms, picked up a bucket and threw the contents over Patrick believing it to be full of water. However, the bucket contained petrol, not water.

Patrick went up in flames, like a human torch. He managed to protect his face but the rest of his body sustained severe and deep burns. 65 per cent of his body was burnt as a result.

He was flown immediately by helicopter from Chamonix to Lyon to the Specialist Severe Burns Unit.

For days he lay between life and death in the Intensive Care Unit in Lyon.

Patrick then spent three months in an induced coma in Intensive Care where he had at least two skin graft operations a week.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, Marius and Isabelle, Patrick’s parents paid tribute to the team in Lyon for all their amazing work.

“We are very thankful of the amazing work the Lyon team did to save Patrick’s life and he is now out of immediate danger and trying to piece his life together again. He was in a rehabilitation clinic to learn to walk again, use his hands, but infection on his deep wounds has forced him to go back to hospital in Toulouse for treatment. He is still there and working painfully on his recovery.

“He is in good spirits and his determination is as strong as ever but he has a long convalescence ahead of him before he can once again live independently and regain some normality in his life.”

Before the accident, Patrick was a very active person driven by his determination to better himself and achieve new goals. He has a wide ranging love of sports and after he completed his studies in Outdoor Sports he has worked for various companies combining his love of sports with his work.

Patrick has worked in the Alps during the winter season and in the summer spent time in England France and Spain. For the last year he was working as a professional bus driver with a French company in the Alps.

Various fundraising events have took place and are being organised in Belcoo to help fund Patrick’s rehabilitation. A fundraising evening in Jack’s Bar in July and most recently The Belcoo Christmas Craft Fair raised £1,765. His brother Brian also held a mountain bike race at Corralea Activity Centre last Saturday with all proceeds going to the rehabilitation fund. Further events are being organised.

“As a family we are grateful to the community in organising a fundraising evening in Jack’s Bar. We thank also The Belcoo Christmas Fair organised by Marion Parker on November 18, 2018 where proceeds are going towards Patrick’s rehabilitation.

“Patrick’s future is now very precarious. He faces the bleak prospect of losing his job as he is unlikely to be able to drive professionally again and may not be able to find a job. Patrick is determined to go back to some kind of active life, to be independent and to work. He is looking at training and setting up his own business once his rehabilitation is complete...which will probably take months, maybe years.”

A crowdfunding page has been set up to help Patrick realise his dream of working again and this has been a massive benefit to Patrick.

“The crowdfunding has absolutely helped him amazingly, psychologically. Because not only have people given money, it just means all these people that he knew in the past, suddenly he can be in contact with them again. His spirits are so high.”

For now it is a slow and painful journey on the road to recovery, but one that Patrick is determined to complete. You can donate at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/patrick-leonard.