Severely burned boy recovering after accident with fire, rubbing alcohol

An 11-year-old North Georgia boy is recovering after an accident sent him to the hospital with severe burns on 30 percent of his body, but his family says he’s not quite out of the woods.

Ray Corfino was trying to light a piece of paper on fire in his bathroom, imitating something he’d seen online, when a bottle of rubbing alcohol exploded on him. His uncle said Ray was using the alcohol to ignite the paper without burning it up.

“No one thinks that the rubbing alcohol in your medicine cabinet could possibly take the life of your child,” Clint Eller told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.

Ray is now in the burn intensive care unit at Grady Memorial Hospital. The worst injuries are to his left hand and arm. His face, chest and shoulders are also badly burned. Eller said the doctors feared the boy would lose his sight, but on Tuesday night, Ray opened his eyes and was responsive to questions.

The fear now is infection.

“It’s still very, very touch and go,” Eller said.

The Habersham County fourth-grader was attempting to light the paper around 11:30 p.m. Sunday. His mother and two older sisters were in their rooms when Ray took a stick lighter from his mom’s toolbox into a bathroom.

RELATED: North Georgia boy, 11, treated for severe burns at Grady

The 11-year-old, who has special needs, doesn’t have the same sense of danger as other kids his age, Eller said. He didn’t know to close the bottle of alcohol before flicking the lighter.

Eller said his nephew got the idea from a video on YouTube explaining how to perform the so-called magic trick. They later found the video on his device’s browsing history.

“The one he was watching, they were burning a $5 bill and it wasn’t burning,” Eller said. “He didn’t think that alcohol could do any real damage. All he saw was alcohol burns and doesn’t hurt.”

With Ray now fighting in the hospital, Eller said his family is warning other parents to pay close attention to what their kids are seeing and doing online.

“Like all kids, he loves YouTube videos,” he said. “Mostly, if you go through Ray’s history of videos, it’s about 40 percent reptiles, 40 percent race cars and the rest is random stuff.”

Eller said the magic trick video wouldn’t necessarily raise red flags. It slipped through the parental controls on Ray’s device.

“Our local police department caused a lot of issues by calling it one of those challenges ... This wasn’t a ‘YouTube challenge,’” Eller said. “It was a simple video, but because of what was in the video, Ray almost lost his life.”

The Cornelia Police Department took to Facebook to correct its initial report after Ray and his family were berated online. The department said officers first believed Ray was trying something called the alcohol challenge, in which “participants get in the shower, pour rubbing alcohol on themselves and light themselves on fire.”

The Monday morning Facebook post was shared nearly 500 times and collected scores of negative comments. 

“Unfortunately, many people have chosen to attack this family and the young man,” police said in the updated post on Facebook. “Although everyone is entitled to their ‘opinion,’ we ask that you keep this family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Friends of the family have set up a GoFundMe to help the family with medical expenses. Eller said doctors told his family that Ray will be in the hospital for four to six weeks as a best-case scenario.

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