Fort Lauderdale

Photographer, Assistant Burned During Photo Shoot Recovering at JMH

A veteran photographer is recovering at Jackson Memorial Hospital after a freak accident during a photo shoot in Fort Lauderdale.

Helmut Montoya was rushed to the Ryder Trauma Center with more than half of his face burned.

His wife says Montoya along with a female production assistant, who was initially believed to be a model, suffered serious injuries after an explosion occurred while they were preparing for a photo shoot.

"He's got a fever because his body is trying to fight the burns," said Stacey Montoya, who says her husband has been a photographer for more than 20 years.

Police say the incident happened at the 19th Street Auto Salvage Tuesday morning. According to Montoya's wife, the team was using candles and setting up lighting. Authorities suspect the candles ignited gas fumes.

"There was no trespassing. It was completely approved and it was just a freak accident," Montoya said.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue responded to the scene and say the woman's body was 85-percent burned. She was later identified as Jenny Meiler, 48, a mother of two from Boca Raton.

On Wednesday, firefighters demonstrated how they believe the explosion took place.

"The flame was about four feet away from the can where the gasoline residue was. It doesn't take much for it to travel," said Fire Marshall Jeff Lucas.

The photographer's wife says her husband attempted to help his assistant, even risking his own life. However, the woman was trapped under a car in the salvage yard.

"He's special, a good soul," said Montoya.

The fire remains under investigation.

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