Tuesday , October 10, 2017 - 4:00 AM
Michelle Moffat, left, listens as her husband Jeff Moffat talks about his injuries from a houseboat fire the previous year Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, at their family home in Kaysville.
KAYSVILLE — Davis High School senior Halle Moffat wasn’t sure she was going to play high school soccer this season.
Moffat was exhausted, so she skipped playing last summer for her club team, Forza.
But she decided to play her senior year, and her spectacular saves are a key reason why Davis – the three-time defending state champion and two-time defending national champion, according to USA Today – was able to slip into the 6-A state tournament as the fourth and final seed from Region 1.
“I think the three months off between club and high school really helped me,” Moffat said.
She needed a break. Because she’s lucky to be alive.
Moffat and her family – including her father Jeff, her mother Michelle, her brother Jaden and her friend and teammate Hailee Atwater – were working on the family’s houseboat June 27, 2016, when it exploded.
It was about 11:15 a.m. and the boat was in dry dock on Lake Powell – meaning it was about six to eight feet off the ground on wooden timbers. The fuel tanks had been taken out of the pontoons so the pontoons could be re-epoxied – a process repeated every three or four years so they’re watertight and the steel doesn’t rust, Jeff Moffat explained.
The tanks had been put back in the pontoons, three of the four tanks had been refilled with fuel and the process of refilling the fourth tank was underway. Jeff Moffat was just outside the houseboat while Jaden was above filling the tank using what Jeff Moffat called an “industrial pump, like you see on the back of trucks.”
“We were on the fourth one, almost finished, and it just went boom. Ignited,” Jeff Moffat recalled. “I kind of saw this flash come up.
“You know how like when your car’s really hot and you spray water on it and it kind of evaporates off the top? … That’s kind of what it looked like to me.”
The force of the explosion blew Jaden back and burned the left side of his face. Jeff Moffat looked down and saw his shorts were on fire. He knew he needed to stop, drop and roll, but he didn’t want to because he said the ground was “rocky, sandy, hard” with “all kinds of other debris and garbage.”
After a brief pause, he stopped, dropped and rolled. He shouted up at Jaden to get off the houseboat with the others. His wife, Halle and Hailee were inside when the explosion occurred.
Michelle Moffat said nobody could tell Jeff had been burned. Jeff Moffat told his son — who was 14 years old and too young to have a learner’s permit — to drive him to a nearby gas station.
“He grew up on a four-wheeler, and basically a truck is the same as a four-wheeler, just a little bigger,” Jeff Moffat said.
When they arrived at the gas station, Jeff Moffat asked people to wrap him with towels drenched in ice water.
The paramedics arrived, at which point Jeff Moffat told his son to drive back to the houseboat to pick up Hailee, Halle and his wife and bring them to the gas station. The houseboat, as well as the boats on each side, were destroyed.
Both Jaden and his father were transported to a clinic in Bullfrog, then flown to the University of Utah Hospital. Jeff Moffat said it took several tries for the paramedics to get an IV line in him because his body had been so dehydrated from the fire.
His wife, Halle and Hailee, meanwhile, were left to drive to the University of Utah.
“We had to drive back for five hours … not knowing if they were OK or not,” Michelle Moffat said.
Jaden ended up being released that night because he only had a first-degree burn, but his father was seriously injured.
“You could just see big globs of skin just hanging off (his feet),” Michelle Moffat said.
Jeff Moffat’s burns included third-degree burns from just above his knees down to his feet, a third-degree burn on his back just above his hip and second-degree burns on his left arm and shoulder as well as his right hand.
He said there’s no way to tell for sure if someone will survive a serious burn injury, but that a rule of thumb is that if you take your age and add the percentage of your body that’s burned and the resulting number is over 100, chances of survival diminish greatly.
He was 52 and 38 percent of his body was burned.
Skin was taken from Jeff Moffat’s back and from his thighs and grafted onto his legs. He also had skin grafted onto the third-degree burn on his back. He was in the burn unit for 40 days.
Fifteen months later, Jeff Moffat is still bothered by inconveniences. He takes one pill of Lyrica and one pill of Ibuprofen a day to manage nerve pain. He said he needs to put ointment on his legs to keep them moisturized.
“As a father, you’re just grateful that you’re the one that took it and not your kids or your wife or your kids’ friend or any of that,” he said. “So I’m just glad that I was the one that ended up being burned like this. I would hope nobody would be, but I would take it again 100 times versus my wife or kids.”
A complete understanding of how the gasoline in the fourth tank ignited is still not clear, according to Michelle Moffat.
Halle said the experience has taught her the importance of family.
“You don’t know how much time you have left with somebody,” she said. “It could all end in just a second.
“No one knew what was happening (after the boat caught on fire). It just really made me think about how much I love my family and how much they mean to me and not take them granted.”