Florida Man Burned In Halloween Cross-Burning Gone Awry

A 50-year-old Palm Bay, Fla. man suffered extensive second-degree burns on Tuesday when he accidentally lit himself on fire while setting up a Halloween display that involved a wooden cross, candles, and gasoline, according to Florida Today. Police described the incident as a “prank.” 

“It started as some kind of prank apparently and involved a wooden cross,” Yvonne Martinez, a spokesperson for the Palm Bay Police Department, told Florida Today. “We don’t know if he was trying to light the cross or the candles but when he did, his clothes caught fire.”

The man, identified as Ron Nielson, was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center’s burn unit for treatment, and his condition was not publicly known on Wednesday. 

“He was conscious and alert but he had second-degree burns over 40 to 50 percent of his body, including his chest, arms, upper torso,” Martinez said.

According to Bay News 9, investigators said Nielson was putting up Halloween decorations on his front yard when, as a joke, he poured gasoline on a small wooden cross and lit it on fire. Gasoline vapors ignited a gas can, which exploded, shooting flames into Nielson’s chest and back. 

“I think it was accidental. I think he was doing a Halloween decoration, trying to set something up, and it went haywire,” a neighbor, identified as an off-duty firefighter, said in a 911 call. 

(Photo credit: kltv.com)

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Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website?s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl@talkingpointsmemo.com

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