Tragically, Rachel died trying to protect twins Sage and Willow, 12, while Matt’s battle to save his youngest daughter Starlia, 10, was unsuccessful, leaving him with burns to 40 per cent of his body and in an induced coma for almost nine weeks.
When he finally woke up, struggling with excruciating pain and unable to see, his immediate instinct was to call his wife. His father Keith was faced with the unthinkable task of telling his son he had lost his entire family. “I was very nervous about that for quite some time,” Keith revealed. “I had to tell him, ‘sorry mate, they’re all gone’”.
Matt admitted his initial reaction was to wonder why the doctors had worked so hard to save his life during the two months he was in an induced coma. “I was just thinking, what makes you think I still want to be alive?” he told the program.
A challenging four months ensued, where Matt battled with the immense emotional pain that had overwhelmed his existence. "I probably spent about four months crying and screaming and asking myself why and fighting it," he said. "It took some stupid, heavy drinking and all that sort of stupid stuff you do when you just want to destroy yourself. But in the end, there's no explanation for it … the only thing you can do is just accept sometimes that's how life goes and there's absolutely nothing you can do to change it."
Eight months after the tragedy, and gripped with a determination to live a life that would have made his girls proud, Matt resumed his passion for running and cooking, and also began rehabilitation.
It was during his recovery process that he met Erin Yarwood, who was working as an assistant to the physiotherapists and occupational therapists helping with his recovery. After many years of friendship, their connection developed into something deeper — she was inspired by his incredible spirit and he was taken with her caring nature.
“I could see with her this sort of genuine compassion for all these people that were in really vulnerable situations,” Matt said. “They had strokes, they were confused and they were frustrated and she was just wonderfully compassionate with them.”
In 2016, on the top of Mount Cooroora in a spot where they always rested at the end of their climbs, Matt proposed. And in August last year, nearly six years after the tragic fire,
the couple welcomed their baby girl, Aluna, into the world.
Matt tells Australian Story he doesn’t want to be thought of as the man who got burnt and lost his family. He doesn’t want pity. “I just want to be me and move on with the life that I have now, you know? I have been lucky enough to have two great loves. Two wonderful, kind women.”