Knowing that her daughter was indoors and within earshot of her, Brandi Owens understandably thought that the girl was safe. But then, the mom heard an unusual noise. Before long, she realized that her daughter was trying out a social media challenge – but it was one that had gone terribly wrong.
Owens hails from the Nigerian capital Lagos and now lives in Detroit, Michigan. According to her Facebook page, she owns a company called Beeboujee Bundles and also works for Dream Team Tax Pros LLC. She has a 12-year-old daughter named Timiyah Landers, who has three sisters and a brother.
One day in August the mom was tucked up in bed with her fiancé at home when something horrifying happened. Her daughter was in another part of the house when Owens suddenly heard a worrying sound. Then she saw Timiyah – and her worst fears became a reality.
“I heard a big pop,” Owens recalled during an interview with Inside Edition in August 2018. “So when I heard the pop I asked [my fiancé], ‘What is that?’ I said, ‘Did you hear that?’ The next thing I knew, Timiyah started running down my hallway in flames.”
Owens revealed that her daughter ran past her bedroom to the nearby bathroom, all the while screaming for help. So Owens and her fiancé Marquell Sholar rushed to the young girl’s aid. They worked fast to try and put out the flames by drenching her in water.
“I [was] ripping her clothes off,” Owens said. And the mom later told The Washington Post, “I was reaching through the fire. It was like a reflex. I didn’t even feel the fire, I was just saving my daughter.”
The concerned mother also burned her own hands while attempting to save her daughter, who she described as looking “like a fireball.” Once the flames were extinguished, she put the preteen in the car and drove the five minutes to the nearest hospital. Owens admitted that she was frantic and began to pray for her daughter.
“Lord, God, please let my baby be okay,” the mom silently begged. When they got to the hospital, they discovered the full extent of Timiyah’s burns. And it turned out that the way in which she had sustained them was heartbreaking.
The young girl was making pancakes in her mom’s kitchen with some friends who were over at her house. That’s when she decided to take part in what has become known as the “fire challenge.” This viral trend sees people covering their bodies in something flammable, such as rubbing alcohol, and then setting themselves on fire.
People who carry out the stunt film themselves and commonly upload the clip to social media. Usually, they have water on standby with which to put out the flames. But on this occasion, Timiyah’s friends were unable to stop the fire.
The pals were also planning to take part in the dangerous challenge. Instead, they were left looking on in terror as the flames spread across Timiyah’s body. “She had taken a shower and rubbed herself down with … spray and lotion [beforehand] and that stuff is flammable as well and caused for the fire to spread all over,” Owens told Inside Edition.
Though extremely hazardous, the fire challenge is not a new viral trend. It’s actually been around for a few years and several other people have suffered injuries because of it. In 2014 a mother was arrested for helping her son carry out the dare by filming him applying nail polish remover to his body and then igniting it.
That same year, a 15-year-old in Kentucky suffered second-degree burns and a 16-year-old in California was left with second- and third-degree burns because of the fad. “Being burned alive was one of the worst things you can imagine,” the teenager from California told KABC-TV. “It’s my fault. I can’t say nothing else besides it was a dumb idea.”
Sadly, the fire challenge is not an isolated fad. There have been other dangerous social media movements such as the Tide pod challenge, which sees teens bite into capsules of laundry detergent. The craze has resulted in some people being rushed to the hospital after suffering symptoms such as loss of consciousness and breathing problems. People have also sustained collapsed lungs after taking part in the “cinnamon challenge,” which involves eating cinnamon powder without the aid of water.
Timiyah’s injuries from the fire challenge were severe. She was placed in intensive care at a children’s hospital with almost half of her body covered in second- and third-degree burns. The 12-year-old was put on a ventilator to help her breathe and needed a feeding tube in order to eat.
“The other day she told me she loved me but it was more like me reading her lips,” Owens told Inside Edition. “I asked her if she was in pain. She said yes.” The mom also shared the news that Timiyah would need skin grafts as well as multiple surgeries.
Owens revealed that one of the young girl’s friends had previously attempted the challenge and suggested that they give it a go on that fateful day. But then everything went horribly wrong. “I am so angry about the situation because they all knew better,” Timiyah’s mom said. “The other kids [who were there] are traumatized. They aren’t eating.”
The mom started a GoFundMe page for her daughter’s medical care that has now raised more than $6,000. Although Timiyah has been having nightmares and Owens believes her daughter will need counseling, the stricken girl’s condition is improving and she is now able to walk. “I’m so thankful for my baby girl’s life,” she shared. “She has a long road to go but she [is] getting there one day at a time. God is good.”
Owens is now warning other parents to keep a close eye on the things that their children are picking up online. “Pay a little bit more attention to your kids, especially when it comes to phone, social media and internet,” she explained. “Talk to your kid. Really stress the importance of life and peer pressure.”
And she’s urging YouTube to more closely monitor their videos and remove ones that contain dangerous stunts so that young people aren’t tempted to try them out. “If we weren’t home, she’d have died,” Owens told The Washington Post. “Those kids wouldn’t have known what to do, but to sit there and let her burn. It would have been pretty much over for her.”