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Southern Utah family speaks out for the first time since explosive bus fire

Posted at 5:53 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 19:53:40-05

VEYO, Utah — A Southern Utah family is speaking out to thank the community and give an update on recovery for the first time since an explosive bus fire in Veyo seriously injured the father and two children.

Mom Whitney Copeland has been living at the UMC Burn Center in Las Vegas for the past month, tending to her critically injured family members. She says recently she and her husband Kyle were reflecting on what a miracle their survival is.

“If it would have gone any other way, if it would have been delayed at all, we would have had fatalities that night, and I am just so grateful that everyone was on the ball,” Whitney said.

The family had been living in the bus for five months before the horrific accident shortly after Christmas. First a fire inside, then an explosion. Investigators reported weeks later that the official cause of the fire was due to a propane heater that had been installed in the bus.

Whitney explained her husband Kyle fought through flames to rescue Pepper and Krew. Their other son Kade climbed out a window. Whitney and their other daughter, Emree, were uninjured.

Whitney says she’s tired but grateful she can be by her family’s side. She is also thankful for her background in nursing which she says gives her stamina to help.

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“I think it’s our trust in god, and his plan for us, we’re just grateful we have a loving and committed family backing us up and really the community," Whitney said. "It’s all just overwhelming and loving at the same time we’re all so grateful."

Three of the family members were critically injured, with severe burns. Dad Kyle is still in the ICU, but just had eye surgery and could be discharged this weekend. Their 12-year-old daughter Pepper and son Krew, who turned four Wednesday while hospitalized, are still in the ICU. Krew could be discharged next week.

The family is set to receive a donated van Thursday. A family in hurricane had the van given to them and they wanted to pay it forward.

“We were just trying to give it to somebody, we were trying to think of somebody before Christmas, and nobody is more deserving than them right now so,” said Lyle Anderson, who donated the van to the Copelands with his wife June.

A friend of the family, Janie Hawley tells FOX 13 Lyle and June Anderson of Hurricane donated the van with new tires, a new battery and a new transmission.

The help doesn’t stop there. Landon Hunt, who owns Prime Tire and Auto Repair volunteered to fix up the van, and he knew immediately who it was benefiting after witnessing the fire the night of.

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“I actually felt the explosion at my house,” said Hunt.

Hunt and his crew donated labor to install motor mounts, with the parts being donated by another mechanic, Colby Allred. Hunt isn’t the only one who pitched in to fix the van. From detailing to labor and new parts, several people in the Southern Utah community came together to make this family’s road to recovery a little easier.

“It just chokes me up for the family to have to go through this type of situation and anyway we wanted to help out however we could and so we did a little work on the vehicle,” said Hunt.

Eric, the service manager at Bracken’s Automotive did the alignment on the van and an oil change at no charge. Silvio Pizzia donated a complete auto detail to make the van shine for the family.

Randy Sandstrom also pitched in from Stephen Wade Chrysler Jeep in St. George by fixing a driver’s side window switch, also for free.

Whitney said the support and love from the community has made all the difference as her family heals.

“Just the amount of compassion and love going in to such a project, it’s amazing to find random people that just want to accept us and love us, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” said Copeland.

There is a Gofundme to help the Copeland family. It’s raised over 200,000 dollars, but the family will be receiving medical care for months, not weeks ahead, so all help is appreciated.