Costa fireball as woman smokes and sniffs gas

Drew Cochrane rushed to the aid of a woman on fire in the Costa coffee shop on South Bridge. Picture: Jane Barlow

Drew Cochrane rushed to the aid of a woman on fire in the Costa coffee shop on South Bridge. Picture: Jane Barlow

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WITNESSES have told how a burns victim burst out of a cafe toilet like a “human fireball” after sniffing aerosols and smoking a cigarette.

The woman – believed to be in her late 20s or early 30s – suffered 30 per cent burns to her body in the ordeal that took place in Costa at South Bridge on Tuesday.

The incident happened at the South Bridge Costa Coffee.'Picture: Neil Hanna

The incident happened at the South Bridge Costa Coffee.'Picture: Neil Hanna

She was taken to St John’s Hospital in Livingston, where she is still receiving treatment for her injuries.

Today, eyewitnesses described how the victim ran screaming from the bathroom covered in flames.

Drew Cochrane, 25, manager of Rock ‘n’ Roll tattoo parlour, had been enjoying a coffee when the drama began and told how he tried to dampen down the flames with his jacket.

“We heard chairs scraping back behind us and a kid screaming, and a woman came out of the toilet with her trousers on fire,” he said.

“The woman’s clothes on the bottom half of her body had burned clean off. Her hands were badly burned and her hair was briefly on fire as well.”

Joined by another man, Mr Cochrane helped snuff out some of the flames while a third man managed to grab a fire extinguisher to put out the fire engulfing the victim’s legs.

He said: “I’m definitely not claiming to be a hero – the older gentleman and the guy who got the fire extinguisher certainly did the most to help.

“Everybody was just doing what they could.”

He added: “I have never seen anything like it in my life – she was like a human fireball.”

It is understood the woman was in the toilet sniffing gas from a canister when she lit a cigarette, igniting the fire.

Mr Cochrane’s friend, Rachel Sutcliffe, 20, said the city centre episode was like “something out of a horror movie”.

She said: “It was really traumatic. We heard chairs scraping and a wave of panic rush through the room. I saw smoke and a sheen of light and then this woman comes running round the corner to where we were standing.

“All of the skin on her hands had peeled away and her face was blackened.”

Another customer, Andrew Connelly-Nimmo, who was sitting at the front window of the shop with his laptop, said he only realised what was going on when a staff member started screaming.

He added: “It appeared that at least her entire lower half, up to her waist, was on fire. It was all very quick and shocking.”

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police and emergency services attended a cafe in South Bridge, Edinburgh, following reports that a woman sustained serious burns. An inquiry is under way.”

A Costa spokesman said the business was working with police during the investigation, adding: “Our thoughts are with her and her family at this time.”