By Alexander Shedd
A man who reportedly doused himself with a flammable liquid and lit himself on fire in Lake Spring Park on Sunday, August 7 died in the hospital from his injuries later that night.
The man, whose name has not been released by the City of Salem, was acting normal, smiling and greeting those around him in the sunny afternoon before covering himself with the fluid, kept in inconspicuous energy drink bottles.
“When we walked by him, he smiled at my kids and said that they were beautiful. So we said thank you and smiled back,” eyewitness Kelseigh Meador told the Roanoke Times. Kelseigh was one of three individuals at the park at the time who attempted to put the flames out and call emergency services.
Getting ready to leave the park, Meador had just put her children in her car when she looked back over at the man, who yelled something before going up in flames. “I screamed,” said Meador. She immediately ran to help the man along with a married couple.
“The lady jumped over the gate of the pond and was getting water while I was pouring water bottles from my car on him,” Meador said. “The husband ran to the store to grab a fire extinguisher.”
Salem emergency services responded to the call at 1:07 p.m. The man was quickly rushed to Roanoke Carilion Memorial Hospital, where he later perished from his injuries.
Salem Communications Director Mike Stevens said of the tragic scene, “While this is a very sad and unfortunate incident, we do not anticipate any charges to result from it. It remains under investigation.” The City of Salem has since stated that they have nothing further to report on the incident.
While little is known about what happened to the victim or what led him to this, the possibility of suicide seems likely. Suicide awareness and prevention resources are available to citizens of Salem through the LewisGale Center for Behavioral Health on Braeburn Drive, as well as through the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center for veterans.
Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline now has a 3-digit emergency number for crises, 988. If you or a loved one are suffering from depression or suicidal ideations, contact these resources today.
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