THE mother of a seven-year-old who died from severe burns has paid tribute to her “special little boy”, saying his death has “ripped the family apart”.
Preston Flores from Aberdeen suffered burns to much of his body in an incident believed to have involved petrol.
It is understood the schoolboy was playing with friends in the east of the city when he was engulfed by flames on Friday afternoon.
He was taken to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh for specialist treatment but died yesterday morning.
The youngster was understood to have been due to have major surgery to release some of the pressure from the burns he had suffered.
It emerged Preston’s family had been told to be prepared for the worst after doctors at the hospital warned he had suffered 85 per cent burns to his body.
His mother Luisza, 32, said in a statement: “He meant the world to his family and will always be deeply missed and loved. Preston was a special little boy and his loss has ripped our family apart.
“On behalf of our family, I would like to thank everyone for their support but would ask that we are now allowed to grieve in peace for Preston.”
Police responded to reports of a boy on fire in the city’s Bedford Avenue at around 2pm on Friday. Officers are investigating whether petrol was involved but say there is no suggestion that the child was the victim of a deliberate act.
Eye witnesses reported seeing him running between two blocks of flats with flames covering much of his clothing.
One 17-year-old girl described seeing him on fire from the neck downwards, his clothes sticking to him as he lay terrified on the ground.
Another said someone handed the youngster a bucket of water, which he immediately poured over himself in a desperate attempt to put out the flames.
A spokesman for Aberdeen City Council did not comment on suggestions that the children accessed fuel from a council vehicle.
At the weekend, Preston’s grandmother, Mary Flores, blamed the council for the incident, claiming the fuel had been left in an unlocked van. She also revealed that Preston’s older brother, Leroy, now 15, had fallen into a bonfire two years ago, burning his arms and legs.
Preston’s mother is thought to have returned home from the shops not long before the incident last week. Neighbours began banging on her door and she ran outside and collapsed when she saw him in the street.
Residents said the mother-of-five was given oxygen and taken in an ambulance with Preston to hospital.
Preston was in primary three at Sunnybank School where acting headteacher Michelle McKay said he had lots of friends.
She said: “Preston was a lively and competitive little boy who loved football, PE and all sorts of outdoor activities, as well as board games, baking and building with Lego. He was a fun-loving boy with a great sense of humour and lots of friends. He loved his family too, and was always sharing with us the latest news about his new baby brother.
“This is a tragic time for his family, for the school and for everyone connected to it. We are all so saddened by what has happened. This is a strong and close-knit community, however, and so we are all supporting each other and I am sure that, together, we will find ways of coming to terms with our loss.”
Police said a report would be sent to the procurator-fiscal in line with usual procedure.
Detective Inspector Lorna Ferguson said: “Our thoughts are with Preston’s family, friends and the Bedford community at this sad time.”
A council spokesman said: “We are assisting police with their inquiries. Aberdeen City Council is also investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident. It would be inappropriate to comment further, with the police inquiries ongoing.”
Last night, First Minister Alex Salmond issued a statement following news of the youngster’s death. He said: “This is a tragic time for the young boy’s family, for the staff and pupils at Sunnybank School, and for the many friends of Preston Flores. Our thoughts are with them all.”