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Woman shares frightening story of gown catching fire while singing for church Christmas show

Posted at 5:47 PM, Dec 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-13 18:19:56-05

PLYMOUTH, Mich. (WXYZ) — Sandy Springstead was so excited to be volunteering once again in her church's Christmas show, but then what Sandy describes as a "freak accident" had her being rushed to the hospital with severe burns to more than 30% of her body.

"I just remember singing Silent Night and then walking up the ramp for the animals," Sandy said about the Jerusalem scene that had her and a number of other people in the choir, including her mom, stepping onto a riser.

"The next thing I know, the back of my gown was on fire," Sandy told 7 Action News from her hospital bed at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor where she was rushed after another volunteer helped to extinguish the fire.

That other volunteer sustained minor injuries, but Sandy was in an ambulance and a pastor's wife was driving her mother right behind them.

"I heard her screaming, 'I'm on fire, I'm on fire,'" said Gale Erlich who was just ahead of her daughter on the riser.

Gale started to scream for people to help get her daughter down and help her drop and roll.

Plymouth Township Fire officials and members of the church security team conducted an investigation into what happened.

Fire officials said it appears someone left a burning candle on the riser and the gown Sandy was wearing brushed into it, catching fire.

"We've done this for 31 years. This has never happened. Never. I love this church," said Sandy.

Despite her severe injuries and being unable to walk or even sit up in bed, Sandy said her biggest disappointment is not being able to finish the performance.

"The first thing I cried about when people came to visit was not being able to finish that show," she said.

Church member Steve King started a GoFundMe account to help Sandy, a single mother of two young boys, during what is expected to be a very long recovery.

"It means a lot to me because, obviously, I can't work. I can't even walk or do anything right now," Sandy said. "It's an awesome church and I'm going to go back there as soon as I can get out of here."

Church officials ask that people continue to pray for Sandy's recovery.