Man in hospital after setting himself on fire in Richmond

Published: Oct. 19, 2013 at 2:49 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 29, 2013 at 10:42 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A young man is clinging to life, after setting himself on fire in Richmond. His roommates say the man, in his 20's, is a VCU student. The tragic incident happened Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in the 1,800 block of West Grace Street, in the Fan.

At last check, police reported the young man was unconscious in a coma. He has life-threatening injuries to his upper body. The man's roommates, also VCU students, described him as "disturbed." They said he snapped, with gasoline and a lighter.

Police and fire trucks rushed to a frantic 9-1-1 call for help. The man's roommates say he walked out of his bedroom, holding a knife. They tell us he had a container of gasoline, a cigar and threatened to light himself on fire. When officers arrived, they saw the student was drenched.

"They saw what they believed to be some type of flammable liquid. He had a lighter in his hand. They went to grab him," said Lt. Tim Wyatt, with Richmond Police.

However, the young man acted quickly, doing the unthinkable.

"In a matter of seconds, he was backing away, setting himself on fire," continued Wyatt.

Police say the officers rushed outside and grabbed a fire extinguisher from their patrol car. This is what they used to put out the flames, which engulfed the man.

"We saw the gentleman in the home being carried out on a stretcher," said neighbor Annie Rhatigan. She saw the student being rushed to the hospital with severe burns.

"His clothing looked singed…It's amazing they were able to act so quickly," added Rhatigan.

Three officers were treated for smoke inhalation, a situation that could have been much worse. The fire could have spread rapidly, engulfing other victims inside the home, including police. The officers treated on scene are expected to be okay.

"It's incredible nobody else was hurt," commented Rhatigan.

Police say no charges are expected. The incident remains under investigation.

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