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Local News

Full Recovery Expected for Toddler Burned in Vehicle Fire

A 3-year-old girl who was burned in a vehicle fire two weeks ago is doing well and should make a full recovery, a family friend told Noozhawk this week.

Susie Figueroa, who turned 3 last week, is still at a Santa Ana burn center receiving treatment for third-degree burns on her face, hands and feet after her parents’ minivan caught fire on Santa Teresita Drive in Santa Barbara on Feb. 25.

According to authorities, the girl had been left alone in the minivan while her mother, Viviana Wink, 29, entered a nearby home where she worked as a caretaker. Wink returned to find the minivan on fire, police Sgt. Riley Harwood said.

A neighbor noticed the vehicle on fire and tried to put out the flames with a hose before firefighters arrived.

Someone unbuckled the toddler from the minivan car seat, and firefighters made quick work of the flames, which had spread to vegetation nearby. The girl and her mother were both burned.

Police and fire personnel are trying to determine the cause of the blaze and other circumstances, Harwood said.

“We’ve sent over the police investigation part to the DA’s Office for review,” he said. “However, whatever outcome fire comes to, that will likely prompt us to then do an initial follow-up investigation.”

The District Attorney’s Office is still waiting on reports from the Santa Barbara Fire Department to decide if any criminal charges will be filed in the case, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Lee Carter.

At this point, criminal investigations are centered on Wink since there seem to be no other involved parties, Harwood said. Potential issues range from leaving a child unattended to child endangerment, he said.

Susie has had four or five surgeries already, and has mostly been kept sedated, said Riley Ramirez, a family friend.

“She had been under some sort of sedative because the first few attempts to wake her, she tried to pull out all the tubes and get out of bed; because her eyes were swollen and shut, she could only hear and not see, so it scared her,” he said.

The family says the car caught fire as soon as it was parked, and Wink struggled to get her daughter out of the vehicle.

Ramirez said the family is still dealing with the “emotional situation,” but friends from church have been helping out with meals, raising money for new car seats and other support.

Family members drove down to Orange County for Susie’s birthday, bringing gifts and a card signed by her friends, Ramirez said.

“She is healing well and should have a full recovery and be out soon,” he said. “Her cheeks are slowly recovering, and her forehead is still a little bandaged, but a lot of the other bandages have been removed to let the skin start healing.”

Business First Bank, where Ramirez works, has raised about $1,000 and has a jar for any members of the public who want to contribute. The family’s Nueva Vida Church at 5272 Hollister Ave. is also accepting donations.

“The community has definitely come together for them with a bunch of support,” Ramirez said. “David, the dad, took the other two kids down to Santa Ana Friday to be together.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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