Family and friends are rallying support for 22-year-old Stephanie Schaffer and her mother Stacey Bender of Rutland. The two were vacationing in the Bahamas with other family members when a tour boat they were on exploded Saturday. One woman was killed in the blast and family members say Stephanie's condition remains life threatening.
Stephanie Schaffer's younger sister Brooke and Paul Bender, Stacey Bender's husband, were also on the boat, but family members say they escaped with minor injuries.
According to news reports, the boat that exploded was carrying a total of 12 passengers, 10 Americans and two Bahamians. One woman, 39-year-old Maleka Grimes Jackson of Chattanooga, Tennessee was killed while her husband was injured in the blast. He reportedly remains hospitalized in Florida.
Stephanie Schaffer had been a standout soccer player at Rutland High School. She'd been taking classes at Castleton University. Now family members say she’s in critical condition in a Fort Lauderdale hospital.
George Schaffer Sr and George Jr., Stephanie and Brooke's father and brother, traveled to the Bahamas and then on to Florida to be with the family.
George Schaffer Jr. said on Facebook that his mother, Stacey Bender, suffered multiple fractures and a contusion on her lungs.
He said his sister Stephanie had to have both of her legs amputated below her knees. He said she also suffered two broken arms, a fractured spine and multiple internal injuries.
“If everyone can keep them in their thoughts and prayers they could really use it right now," he wrote. "Thanks again for the unfathomable amount of love that we can feel thousands of miles away."
A GoFundMe page set up to help with medical bills has raised more than $126,000 dollars as of 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Melissa Crossman, a family friend who lives in Chittenden, says she's been in contact with George Sr. and says the family is going through an unbelievably difficult time right now. Crossman says she and another family friend, Amy Merrill, are in the early stages of planning a support network for the family once they return to Rutland.
Crossman says emergency airlift and transportation expenses to fly Stephanie and Stacey from the Bahamas to Florida have already been costly. Besides hospital bills, Crossman believes the family will likely face months of rehabilitation expenses, so she encourages anyone who can lend support to do so through the family's GoFundMe page.