Man sets himself on fire in broad daylight

Man sets himself on fire in broad daylight
Published: 2013 October 05 17:22:55 (2896 Views)
A man was in critical condition Friday night after he poured gasoline on his body and lit himself on fire on the National Mall.

Flames and smoke from the self-immolating man near 7th Street and Jefferson Drive, SW, were visible from the Capitol, just a day after a car chase that ended with the shooting death of a woman just outside the Hart Senate Office Building.

The incident happened at about 4:30 p.m. on Friday in between the Air and Space Museum and the National Gallery.

Passing joggers rushed to the man's aid, several ripping off their shirts to help beat out the flames that burned 80% of his body, ABC reports.

The man reportedly thanked the joggers before he was taken to MedStar Washington Hospital Center by a U.S. Park Police helicopter that landed on the Mall.

Fire department spokesman Tim Wilson said the man suffered life-threatening injuries, but was conscious and breathing at the scene.

Authorities are now investigating the man's motives.

"I'm not aware of any signage or any articulation of any causes," said Lt. Pamela Smith of the U.S. Park Police, which has teamed up with the D.C. police department.

Tommy Hess, a tourist visiting his brother, said he was on the Mall, "milling around, because everything is closed due to the shutdown."

"I never expected to see anything like that," Hess said. "It's crazy."

Katy Scheflen, a furloughed civil rights attorney in the Justice Department, said she stopped because she saw "a guy with a tripod set up."

Scheflen said another man, who she thought the tripod with a camera was filming, then took a red can of gasoline, poured it over his head.

"At that point we didn't know what was going, maybe it was some sort of stage protest," Scheflen said. "And then he set himself on fire and went up in flames," she said. "Whoosh."

"I saw like a spark," she said. "Then he just went completely up in flames."

"Some heads up joggers put out the flames," she said. "A guy took his shirt off, ran over, you know, start trying to beat the flames out. A couple other joggers also stopped to help."

"It's very shocking," she said. "It's horrifying. Literally watching this guy go up in flames. There was not really anything anybody could do."

Scheflen said the presence of a mounted camera gave her the impression "he was aware something was about to happen. Otherwise he was filming nothing but a guy standing there."

"It was obviously an intentional act," she said. "Somebody has a video of the whole thing."

Scheflen said the man may have said something beforehand "but it was nothing intelligible."

Emily Cherry, a stay-at-home mom from Bristow, Va., was on the mall with her son Jackson, 2 and one-half years old, who was playing on the mall.

She said she saw the flames and at first thought it was a performance of some kind. "I grabbed him and kind of walked toward it," she said.

"Then I realized somebody's hurt and I heard people yelling 'water, water' so I called 911."

"I saw several people filming on their phones. I remember thinking' is no one calling 911, because they were all filming," Cherry said.

Cherry said she tried to distract her son once she realized what she was seeing.

"I don't know what he saw and understood," she said, still holding him thirty minutes later. "We tried to stay away."

While she explained, Jackson interrupted:

"Did I see him on fire?" he asked.

"He did have fire on him, sweetheart, yeah," Cherry told him.

"It hurts," Jackson said.

"It does, but the ambulance came and they're gonna try to make him feel better," Cherry said.

- NYDN
Tags: fire, burn, 911,
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