Karl Hinnett was only 18 when he suffered burns to more than a third of his body in a petrol bomb attack on his tank in Basra, Iraq, in 2005. Images of the teenage soldier engulfed in flames rolling down the front of his Warrior tank made news headlines around the world.
On the day of his injury, the ex-gunner and his Infantryman colleagues in Staffordshire Regiment were supporting an operation to rescue two British soldiers held in a police station when they were surrounded by a mob. Petrol bombs were thrown and one entered his tank.
Karl said: “I was just drenched in petrol and after about 15 seconds of being completely engulfed in flames I clicked into survival mode. I knew that if I wanted to keep on breathing and living that I had to get myself out of there, even if it meant a bit more pain and gripping hot metal but that bit of pain was for my life.
“Running through my head was that I was only 18-years-old and I had seen pictures of burn victims. Is that what my life was going to be now? I just kept telling myself the only way to go was forward.”
While the four other soldiers in his tank escaped serious injury, Karl suffered burns to his face, hands, arms, stomach and legs. His colleagues rushed him to a field hospital where he was put in a medically induced coma for 10 days. During this time, he had three, 12-hour operations before being transferred to the UK.
“It was a long road to recovery,” said Karl who went on to endure five years of gruelling skin grafts and surgery to repair his scorched body at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, now replaced by Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Woundcare4heroes helped Karl with post-burn scar management on his hands. The treatment was to prevent and minimise skin contracture which can lead to physical deformities and loss of function. Karl received cutting-edge fractional or CO2 laser therapy at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine to improve skin flexibility and appearance and reduce the need for more invasive surgery.
Karl said “The help that this charity is giving is amazing. It is immeasurable. It is helping people carry on with their lives.”
He added: “Recent conflicts have had their fair share of wounded. But throughout history there have been conflicts people have been injured and survived and those wounds can be for life.
“Woundcare4heroes has helped me in the safe knowledge that when I have further operations in future - which is inevitable - they will be there to support me.”
Since his medical discharge, the former soldier has battled back to fitness to become a gym instructor, ultra-marathon runner and motivational speaker. He also met his wife with whom he has a young son.
“The help that this charity is giving is amazing. It is immeasurable. It is helping people carry on with their lives.”