Nash County, NC – Family members have set up a fund to help pay for extended medical care for a Nash County woman who suffered second- and third-degree burns last week after her house exploded into flames.

There’s dispute among witnesses of the Aug. 9 blast, with some neighbors saying 41-year-old Michelle Allen was blown through a window by the explosion at her home on N.C. 97. Other nearby residents said they saw Allen, while on fire, run out the front door.

Either way, the explosion and subsequent blaze left more than 60 percent of Allen’s body, including her face and head, badly burned. The mother of three adult children remains heavily sedated and in intensive care at the Jaycee Burn Center at N.C. Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill, where specialists have worked in recent days to repair Allen’s body through surgeries and skin grafts.

“It has been very difficult on the family,” said Tonya West, Allen’s sister-in-law. “Her children have taken it exceptionally hard.”

Brian West, Allen’s brother, is a fire investigator with the Rocky Mount Fire Department. He, too, said he was shaken when he received word of his sister’s injuries.

Digging through the rubble, Nash County investigators traced the explosion to a propane leak caused by the improper installation of a wall heater, said Chris Bissette, Nash County deputy fire marshal. Allen, who was renting the home, had only been living there a few days.

“Basically, when the tank was cut on, … it started slowly leaking gas,” Bissette said. “What the ignition source was, we don’t know exactly.”

Allen was transported to Nash General Hospital, before being airlifted to Chapel Hill. Doctors there say she might have to remain at the burn center for more than six months, Tonya West said.

Allen’s parents, Robert and Jean West, travel from Rocky Mount to see their daughter almost daily, family members said. Other family and friends have flooded the Wests with words of support.

“We’re all praying for her recovery,” Tonya West said.