‘My sheep costume fireball horror’ – Sunderland student

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A SUNDERLAND student today told of the terrifying moment he was turned into a human fireball when a doorman set his fancy dress costume alight.

Sean Collins, 22, had made his own sheep outfit, which was covered in cotton wool balls and sprayed with hairspray, to help celebrate a pal’s 21st birthday.

But the celebrations turned to terror when bouncer Thomas McGuiness set the costume alight with a lighter, turning him into a ball of fire.

Sean suffered 12 per cent body surface burns to his hands and arms and has had to have several painful skin grafts and operations.

Sean, from Hall Farm in Sunderland, told of the moment he was set alight.

The former St Aidan’s School pupil said: “I remember standing having a cigarette – the next minute I was on fire.

“I panicked and ran around trying to get the suit off.

“My friends tried to help me. Afterwards, I ran into the street and sank to the pavement in shock.

“I was dealing with it pretty well while I was in hospital.

“I believed it was an accident and that someone had caught me with a cigarette, but then when the police came to see me and told me it wasn’t an accident, it really affected me.

“Looking back now, I know there’s a chance I could have burnt to death, but I wasn’t thinking that at the time, I just wanted to get the suit off me.”

Sean had been standing in the smoking area of a nightclub in Preston, where he had been studying at the University of Central Lancashire (UClan), when McGuiness – a doorman at the club – struck.

CCTV capturing the moment was described as “horrific” by Preston Crown Court Judge Michael Leeming, QC.

Sean, who is studying for a degree in forensic science and criminal investigation, was transferred from Preston for further care at South Manchester University Hospital where he had a skin graft operation.

He may need up to two years of further treatment.

McGuiness, 24, of Chorley, Lancashire, was jailed for 18 months for the January 17 attack, after he admitted unlawful wounding.

Sean told the Echo the sentence wasn’t enough.

As well as not being able to graduate this month, Sean also had to give up his job in the kitchen at McDonald’s and has been left suffering anxiety and depression.

“I’ve just had corrective surgery because after the operation on my hand, I couldn’t straighten out my little finger, so that’s the third round of surgery I’ve had,” said the Sunderland fan.

“I’m finishing off my dissertation right now and then I’ll be graduating in December, even though I should be graduating now like other students.

“I will probably never go back to Preston because I have no reason to.

“I used to love socialising and football but haven’t been out since, and I can’t play football until my skin grafts have healed.”