Mr. USF suffers third-degree burns in bonfire accident

Matthew Dolson, Mr. USF, was severely injured by a bonfire accident Saturday. He is in an induced coma in Tampa General Hospital’s intensive care unit.

Matthew Dolson was spending the evening with his friends when he attempted to start a bonfire on his father’s tree farm in Dade City.

“They were having the time of their lives,” Matthew Dolson’s father Arthur said.

Arthur Dolson doesn’t know whether there was confusion with the gas used to start the bonfire, because there were both diesel and gas on the property. Arthur Dolson was inside watching TV with his wife when he heard the explosion, which he said sounded like “a sonic boom.” One of Matthew Dolson’s friends called 911 and his father, following the directions of the operator, continually doused him with a water hose until paramedics arrived. He was then airlifted to Tampa General. No one else was injured.

Matthew Dolson spent six hours in surgery Tuesday, when doctors performed skin grafts. They used skin from his thighs and a cadaver. He also had a blood transfusion. Arthur Dolson and the doctors are very hopeful; all of Matthew Dolson’s vitals are in good ranges. The greatest problem is the risk of infection.

Matt Dolson was placed in the coma to avoid pain Arthur Dolson said. Doctors told Arthur Dolson that if Matthew Dolson had been a normal-sized person – a former wrestler, he weighted more than 200 pounds – the explosion would have likely killed him.

The doctors are unsure when Matthew Dolson will fully recover, as everyone heals differently, Arthur Dolson said.

“He is alive and he will rise from this,” he said. “We are very hopeful he will come back to USF this year.”

Matthew Dolson was crowned as the first Mr. USF on April 3.

After being crowned, he said: “I am very happy to represent USF and hopefully do good things to show the student body at USF what it has.”

Former Student Government President Garin Flowers, who was one of people in charge of the Mr. USF scholarship, was sorry to hear the news.

“We know he is a strong person and he will come through this,” he said.

A Facebook group, “Pray for Matt Dolson,” features updates on Matthew Dolson’s condition and includes messages from Matthew Dolson’s mother and friends. The group has more than 700 members as of press time.

“Matthew is one of a kind. He is a really nice young man – even if he weren’t my son, I would tell you that,” Arthur Dolson said. “He is the bright spot in our lives.”