“Never give up, always keep going and always follow your dreams”
Read Terry’s inspiring story below. A story of tragedy, and yet, a story of hope and recovery.
Terry Dunnage – a hero who survived being turned a human fireball when he tried to save a burning man’s life. Terry was permanently scarred on half his face and body after he tried to stop his Uncle Vincent, from setting himself on fire in Paignton, Devon.
Father-of-five Mr Dunnage was consumed in a petrol fireball and only survived by leaping from a first-floor balcony, before spending months in hospital fighting for his life. When he tried to claim on his uncle’s insurance – which covered accidental bodily injury – Direct Line Group refused to pay out after it claimed Mr Randall’s mental illness meant he was not liable.
However after a long legal battle, three appeal court judges ruled the insurer was wrong, and Mr Dunnage – who had to re-learn to walk and talk after the attack – will now be awarded a payout.
Mr Dunnage, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, said:
‘I thought I was going to die and they actually read my final rites to me twice in hospital. I even lost my house because I couldn’t pay the mortgage, yet they still refused to pay out. It was very stressful spending years battling for justice whilst trying to recover myself.
‘I wanted to give up the fight many times as it was so disheartening. They made me feel bad for fighting for what was right and what I deserved. The joke is they spent so much money fighting me that they could have just offered me that in the first place and my life would have been so much easier.’
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Terry’s uncle was visiting him and his former partner’s home in Paignton for a cup of tea in October 2007.
He was said to have become increasingly delusional before his death and was convinced people were following him – and accused the couple of being involved. Terry’s Uncle announced he was going to his car to get a copy of Auto Trader magazine for Mr Dunnage, but returned with a petrol can and a lighter.
The schizophrenic poured petrol over himself and said ‘tell me the truth or we’re all going up’.
Terry – who was commended for his efforts in court – tried to grab the lighter, but it was ignited by Mr Randall, and the pair went up in a horrific ball of flames. After trying to drag his uncle towards the balcony, Mr Dunnage jumped to safety as all his clothes burned off, leaving just a waistband of his jogging bottoms.
Neighbours called 999 but Terry’s Uncle could not be saved and Mr Dunnage was taken to hospital with 48 per cent burns.
‘My skin started dripping off my hands and my ears, but initially because of the adrenaline I couldn’t feel the pain,’ he said.
‘But by the time the ambulance got there I thought I was going to die. I went into shock and I thought that was it.’
Medics put Mr Dunnage in a drug-induced coma for five weeks while they battled to save his life, and repair the burns to his face, arms, torso and ankle. His family was called to say final goodbyes twice after he caught MRSA, septicaemia and pneumonia, while fighting to survive at Bristol’s Frenchay Hospital.
But after daily operations and skin grafts as well as 20 blood transfusions he was woken up by medics.
As Terry looked in the mirror for the first time, he said ’There was a monster looking back at me, I hated it. My whole face looked melted – my ears were melted to my face. I tried suicide twice.’
Mr Dunnage’s household insurance with Direct Line Group covered the father-of-one if he ever became legally liable in damages for accidental bodily harm. Mr Dunnage made a claim on the policy, but it was rejected by a lower court last year on the grounds Mr Randall was so ‘deranged’ his actions were ‘mechanical’ so he could not be negligent.
But heroically, Terry appealed the decision in the High Court, in March 2015. Thankfully, three senior judges sided with him, and said he was entitled to substantial damages after deciding he was a ‘rescuer’.
Terry is using the money to fund an amazing charity – The Terry Dunnage Foundation – to help injured people, using music.
Terry said: ‘I’m glad it is over – it’s not even about the money. I want to show other people there is hope when you experience something terrible. Never give up, always keep going and always follow your dreams.’