A 3-year-old girl is fighting for her life with severe burns to her face and body after setting herself alight in a horrific accident.
The girl set fire to her clothes while playing with either matches or a lighter at her home near Martinborough at 4.30pm on Monday.
Her father rushed to help her and frantically beat the flames out, burning both his hands in the process.
The girl suffered third-degree burns to about 50 per cent of her body, and was taken to Hutt Hospital's intensive care unit in a critical condition. She was due to be flown late last night to Auckland's Middlemore Hospital, where many of the most severe burns victims are treated.
She and her father were ferried by ambulance to the Featherston Domain on Monday then transferred to the Westpac rescue helicopter.
A witness at the domain said the girl had suffered "severe" and "obvious" burns, especially to her face.
"Given the horrendous pain she must have been going through, she was being pretty brave.
"Her face looked bad, it really did, but she managed to lift her head up from the stretcher and have a look at the helicopter."
Life Flight crewman Logan Taylor said the girl was quiet throughout the flight to Avalon Studios, where she was transferred to a waiting ambulance.
"The paramedics were doing a good job of keeping her calm while they did their thing," he said.
"Her dad was there comforting her too."
Featherston fire chief Colin McKenna said the incident had been tough on emergency service workers.
"We were told she was playing with matches or a lighter, so it's pretty tragic really.
"She was conscious when she was put in the helicopter, so I guess that's positive. You just hope she'll be all right."
It was not known what kind of clothing the girl had on, or if she was wearing pyjamas.
Fire safety warnings on children's nightwear were made compulsory in 2009 after the death of a young boy and serious injuries to at least four others.
In 2007, Auckland four-year-old Corwin Bridge died after being badly burned when his pyjamas caught fire from a gas heater pilot light.