Abbie Quinnen reveals 'horrible' Instagram abuse over burns

By Victoria Derbyshire
The Jeremy Vine Show

Published
image copyrightABBIE QUINNEN
image captionAbbie and AJ were trying to film a trick for social media when the accident happened

Dancer Abbie Quinnen, who was badly burned when a social media stunt went wrong, says she has received "horrible" messages from trolls on Instagram since the accident in January.

Quinnen and her partner, ex-Strictly star AJ Pritchard, were due to film a trick with highly-flammable liquid when a fireball "shot across the room".

The 23-year-old suffered second and third degree burns across her body.

One of the Instagram messages said: "You should have burned to death."

Recounting the initial incident to Victoria Derbyshire on BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine Show, Quinnen said she immediately screamed for help as the liquid caught fire uncontrollably.

"I was in shock and thinking, how can I survive this?" she said. "I rolled on the floor and that didn't work, so I grabbed a heavy blanket and started trying to put out the flames that way.

"AJ was getting damp towels in the meantime."

Although it was over in seconds, she said "it felt like a lifetime" and she kept asking Pritchard, "Is my face going to be okay? Am I going to be okay? Will you still love me?"

The dancer suffered second and third degree burns to her face, head, neck, ear, chest and down her right side; she also lost some of her hair.

She has had three skin graft operations, two of which involved using someone else's skin - called an allograft.

"I could have been blinded. I could have lost my hearing. I'm so lucky. It could have been even worse," she said.

'I was hysterical'

At one point the dancer was having to take 27 tablets a day to cope with the pain.

Quinnen said she has been helped by many people on Instagram who have shared their own experiences of being burned.

But others have posted messages including: "You should have burned to death"; "You're now going to look like a waxwork model"; and "Don't go near your niece and nephew, you'll scare them".

"It's so horrible, I just think it's really sad and I feel a bit sorry for them," Quinnen said.

One of the hardest things for her was thinking she would never look the same again.

"When I was in hospital, staff tried every day to persuade me to talk to a therapist, but I just didn't want to, I wasn't ready. Even looking at the reflection of my face in my 'phone screen was hideous," she said.

When eventually spoke with a counsellor, they asked her to look into a mirror to help her accept what had happened to her. "I was hysterical," she said.

'Struggling'

She credits Pritchard with helping her recover, but initially would get upset when he was going out to work on the Channel 4 soap opera, Hollyoaks.

"He was able to get on with his life whereas I was in bed struggling with the consequences. I wasn't thinking straight, I know he was trying to be strong for me.

"Then I caught AJ crying once and he was trying to say 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry'. I was shocked because he'd obviously been keeping it in for weeks."

Quinnen said she has cried every day since her accident in mid-January up until last week, but is now trying focus on her goal of being back on stage, performing alongside Pritchard and his brother Curtis in their autumn tour.

She also wants to start a petition to get videos like the one she and her partner were trying to recreate removed from YouTube so no one else gets injured like her.

'Why me?'

She says she has asked "Why did this happen to me?" and is very anxious. "I don't go out too much and I'm constantly thinking something else bad is going to happen."

Qunnen also paid tribute to the NHS medics who cared for her. "They are the closest thing to superheroes. My surgeon was amazing - I trusted her with my life. And all the nurses are so amazing."

Doctors have told her they won't know for another two years how much scarring she will have on her face in the long-term.

As to her future with Pritchard, she says they've talked about marriage and children.

"AJ has been incredible. By my side the whole time, feeding me and cleaning my wounds," she added. "I would love to get married to AJ. He is my dream man. I can't imagine my life without him."

Victoria Derbyshire interviewed Abbie Quinnen and AJ Pritchard as part of her week covering the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2. You can hear the full show on BBC Sounds - with the interview after 32 minutes.

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