Three hockey players burned by campfire making progress in Alberta hospital

Ryan Vandervlis remains in hospital with burns on the front of his body

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — The general manager of a Western Hockey League team in Alberta says a player who has been in an induced coma since he was seriously burned by a campfire is making progress.

Peter Anholt with the Lethbridge Hurricanes said Tuesday that Red Deer’s Ryan Vandervlis remains in hospital with burns on the front of his body.

The 20-year-old forward and two friends, who are also hockey players, were injured by the fire Friday night at a home near Cochrane, Alta.

Vandervlis was taken to a Calgary hospital in critical condition.

He “has shown signs of progress having been taken off dialysis yesterday,” said Anholt.

“There’s so much hope and positive feel from everybody.”

Anholt said the injured were among a group of 10 young men who had gathered at the family home of Tyler Wong as part of a pre-wedding celebration. Wong, a former Hurricanes player, is getting married and the group was to go golfing and camping the next day.

The three injured men were sharing a bench in front of the firepit when there was an explosion. Anholt said a substance had been used to help ignite the fire.

“Anybody who has camped and anybody who has started a fire with wet wood has used some sort of accelerant — and this went wrong.”

RCMP are investigating, but have not released further details.

Jordy Bellerive, the team’s 19-year-old captain and a prospect with the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, and Matt Alfaro, a former Hurricane now with the University of Calgary Dinos, were burned on their upper bodies and are also in hospital, said Anholt.

They are in good spirits and are expected to make a full recovery, he said.

Bellerive posted on Twitter that he and his friends are doing their best to stay positive.

“Although I have suffered from some very severe and painful burns, I am doing better each day. I am on my way to making a full recovery!”

Alfaro issued a statement through the Dinos club thanking people for their concern.

“The outpouring of support has been overwhelming and uplifting, and we deeply appreciate it. Our focus now is on my recovery and that of my teammates.”

The Vandervlis family has received numerous offers of financial support, said Anholt. The team’s chaplain has visited the injured players and is available to help others in need of counselling, he added.

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