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Exuma Victim's Ordeal Drags On After Boat Blaze

The boat fire in June last year.

The boat fire in June last year.

photo

Stefanie Schaffer lost both legs in the accident.

By MORGAN ADDERLEY

Tribune Staff Reporter

madderley@tribunemedia.net

THE young American dancer who became a double amputee as a result of the 4C's Adventures boat explosion is recovering in Massachusetts and receiving support from survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Stefanie Schaffer, 22, of Vermont, was a passenger on the 4C's boat with her mother and stepfather, Stacy and Paul Bender, and 13-year-old sister.

Her relatives' injuries ranged from cuts to broken bones.

On Monday, the Bahamas Maritime Authority released a damning report of the incident, finding that 4C's operated a boat that was neither registered nor inspected by the Port Authority.

The investigators also revealed that there were technical and structural issues with the home-built boat, ultimately declaring that "under no circumstances" should 4C's have operated the "craft on a commercial basis".

One woman was killed and ten others injured in the Exuma explosion.

My Champlain Valley reported Ms Schaffer has been receiving care at Spaulding Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

According to the news site, Ms Schaffer also has weekly appointments with plastic surgery, orthopaedic, and hand specialists at Massachusetts General Hospital and is on dialysis "three times a week".

However, family friend Amy Merrill noted "her kidney function seems to be improving".

Ms Merrill also described the support Ms Schaffer has received from multiple survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, many of whom lost limbs.

"A couple have actually made them dinner and brought it to the hospital," she said.

"Now she has somebody to talk to who understands what she's going through.

"They've been really empathetic and really educating her and helping her kind of walk this next line that she has to go through.

"I think Stefanie has good days and bad days and I think she is a very strong person and it's that strong will that's keeping her spirits up. I think the love and support from everyone is definitely well needed."

The community of Rutland Vermont has also been rallying around Ms Schaffer.

The girls' soccer team has been raising money by selling "Stef Strong" t-shirts, and during a football game last month, requested that the crowd wear blue and raise funds.

Lori McClallen, Ms Schaffer's high school soccer coach said: "Stef is such a week girl. One of those kids that everyone is drawn to because she's just very unassuming but very compassionate, always super kind to people.

"To know Stef and to know what a spirit she had, and she still does, always a smile on her face and to think that a tragedy like that takes your smile away for a really long time."

On September 23, the Palms restaurant in Rutland also hosted a collaborative fundraiser for Ms Schaffer and her family.

Ms Merrill also said Ms Schaffer's Stacey Bender mother is "still recovering" and "starting to walk for short periods of time."

"I would like to thank the Rutland community and the beautiful state of Vermont for opening up your hearts to our family during this most difficult of times," Ms Bender wrote in a statement.

"All of you, as well as all those we have met on this road to recovery have shown how truly good people are. It has truly amazed us! The theme tonight is 'Stef Strong', but please know that her strength and ours has been maintained by all the love and prayers on our behalf. We thank you so much."

To donate to Ms Schaffer and her family, visit: https://www.gofundme.com.

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