- Author: Tom Marcinko
- Category: Features
- Issue: Sep 2014
October 16, 2013, 9:19 p.m.
When the house at 7916 W. Cholla St. exploded, it rocked a Peoria police patrol car idling only 15 feet away. Officer Kenneth Tarrant happened to be sitting in the cruiser, wrapping up a traffic case.
He radioed for help, then ran to aid the young man and woman running from the house. They were screaming in agony. They managed to tell him they’d been badly burned. Tarrant asked if anybody else was in the house. The answer was no.
The only other information they could give Tarrant was this: The woman had just lit a candle. Then the house blew up.
The house was still “having multiple explosions,” so Tarrant took the couple to the corner of 7900 Cholla. The Peoria Fire Department arrived minutes later, gave the couple first aid, and airlifted the pair to the Arizona Burn Center.
What followed for the fire victims – Tiara Del Rio, 21, a data-entry clerk and an aspiring model, and Beau Zimbro, 32, a construction worker and painter – is a remarkable, still-unfolding story. It’s about a medical advance in burn treatment that has helped patients throughout the world as it awaits federal approval for use in the United States. It’s also a story of love and courage. Mostly, though, it’s a story of survival, and a resilience that kicked in seconds after the explosion.
Among other things, Del Rio recalls, Zimbro saved her life.
The couple had been dating for about two weeks. They met when Del Rio’s father hired Zimbro to help remodel and repaint the house, which Del Rio inherited from an aunt. Del Rio would unwind from her day job