Cousins April and Ashleigh Charlesworth share their story of recovery after being left badly burned in fireball at a pub in Great Cornard
Even if you have bad days, things will get better. That is the message from two cousins who together went through one of the most horrific incidents in recent years.
April and Ashleigh Charlesworth, both 30, were badly burned when a fireball engulfed them in a beer garden in April 2021.
The pair were celebrating April’s 28th birthday at a pub in Great Cornard, Sudbury, on April 24, 2021, when a portable outdoor heater caught fire, during an incident.
A 27-year-old man has since been charged with two offences of inflicting grievous bodily harm in connection with the incident, to which he has pleaded not guilty, and is awaiting trial next year.
April suffered burns to her face, chest, shoulder, hands and finger tips. Ashleigh suffered severe burns to her face, hands and chest.
Both still need ongoing laser surgery every six to eight weeks. The cousins, however, have made a remarkable recovery.
“At first, I felt suicidal,” said April, who lives in Great Cornard. “I’d think back to my life before; I couldn’t look at myself, and I just wanted my life to end.
“Thankfully, my nine-year-old son, Franklin, kept me going.”
April, a former care worker, is now a successful hairdresser and social media influencer. She has shared her recovery journey on Instagram and more recently on TikTok, and has a combined 30,000 followers.
Ashleigh, who lives in Chilton, has also shared her story on the platforms. Both say it has helped restore their confidence.
April said: “I wanted to do it straight away to share my story, as a way of helping others. That way, I made friends as far away as Australia and we support each other.
“Other people just like to see how I am getting on. I recently became a brand ambassador for Boohoo, to help promote their clothes.”
Ashleigh meanwhile, is working as a NHS 111 nurse and is now carving out a name for herself in the world of body building.
She said: “I had my first body building competition in November and am in training for the new season next year.
“I was terrified when I went on stage for the competition, to be judged on how I looked, but it was something I had always wanted to do, and I wasn’t going to let the fire stop me.”
Both April and Ashleigh say their jobs have also helped them rebuild their lives.
April said: “I’m surrounded by a great team at The Hair Studio in Sudbury.
“Hairdressing was something I always wanted to do and life is too short not to follow your dream.
“Some clients want to talk about what happened. These days, I feel I can as both Ashleigh and I have come so far.”
At first, Ashleigh could hardly hold a pen when she began a her new job with NHS 111, because of her injuries.
“My work has been very supportive and, after a while, everyone looks past what happened, and we just get on with it,” she said.
The cousins have also helped to raise thousands of pounds for the Katie Piper Foundation, which supports burns survivors. In April last year, they climbed Scafell Pike and raised more than £3,000. They also arrange regular fundraisers.
But there is one thing that has helped them get through the past two years, more than anything else.
“April and I have always been like sisters; we were born three months part and have always been close,” said Ashleigh.
“It has been hard for us and we both have bad days, but know things will get better. Because we went through this together, we both feel the other is the only one who really understands, which can be emotional.
“We feel like we are always together; just on different recovery journeys.”