Jake Zogoolas, the youngest son of Real Housewives of Melbourne’s Janet Roach, was 22 and at a birthday party in a rural NSW when his life was changed in an instant.
Jake suffered burns to 65 per cent of his body after a petrol-like substance caught alight on a fire and exploded.
Now Janet, 59, is suing the owners of the property, Harold and Bonnie Clapham (the in-laws of AFL star Tom Hawkins), for allegedly failing to keep guests safe, Herald Sun reports. She is also reportedly suing their son, James, for allegedly throwing accelerant on the fire.
Janet is taking action through the Supreme Court, claiming her career as a property developer was ruined due to post-traumatic stress disorder following the 2011 incident.
It was 4am in April 2011 when Janet received a call saying her youngest son was being airlifted to a hospital in Melbourne from the property in Deniliquin.
Speaking to News Corp in 2015, Jake said he thought he was going to be okay when he arrived to the hospital, but was told his case was more complicated than he realised.
“I was at a 21st birthday party in Deniliquin. Someone was playing with petrol around a campfire, I wasn’t really watching,” he said. “He started pouring it on the campfire. The fire went up towards the kettle of petrol, so he threw it, and I was on the other side. I was covered in two litres of burning petrol.
“The night it happened, they got an ambulance in about 10 minutes. I thought I was okay, but I got to the hospital and they said, ‘You’re not okay’, and they put me under. I woke up a couple of weeks later.”
LISTEN: What the mother of a very sick child wants you to know. Post continues below.
According to News Corp, Janet said her son’s treatments cost around half a million dollars. She and Jake’s father, nightclub owner George Zogoolas, had their lives interrupted, too. They spent months in hospital with their son, navigating a way to bring him home and move him forward from such a shocking experience.
“He’d lost his spark, he wasn’t that interested in anything. I was worried,” Janet told News Corp.
Janet and her son have since started The Roach Foundation, which helps burn victims and their families by offering rehabilitation services and, at times, financial assistance.
“Jake’s been lucky because he had early intervention,” Janet said. He had up to 50 operations, News Corp reports, and continues to have laser and facial injections to reduce scarring and redness.
“I found out about treatments in the private system, so as soon as he was together enough and I could take him to appointments, I pulled him out,” Janet told News Corp.
She said the difference the facial treatments made in Jake’s recovery was most noticeable when compared to the burn patients who were in the ward with Jake.
This is what pushed them both to start the foundation, hoping to help other patients who are unable to afford the treatments that were so helpful to Jake.
Neither the Claphams nor Roach have commented on the legal action.