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article imageMan torches himself with gasoline near Capitol Hill

By Robert Myles     Oct 5, 2013 in World
Washington - An unidentified man set himself on fire early Friday evening at Washington’s National Mall close to federal museums currently closed as a result of the US government shutdown. There was no immediate explanation for the incident.
Washington DC emergency services rushed to the scene around 4.30 p.m. after a phone call alerting them that a man had set himself on fire in the busy public thoroughfare.
The incident took place near the intersection of 7th Street and Madison Drive. US Park Police immediately closed an area of the National Mall between Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW.
When fire services arrived, a spokeswoman told reporters the man was “conscious and breathing.” A fire department spokesman said the man’s injuries were life threatening. The burn victim was subsequently flown by helicopter to Medstar Washington Hospital Center for treatment to his injuries. Later the hospital confirmed via Twitter the man’s arrival for treatment but there were no updates as to his condition.
The Independent reported a container of inflammable liquid was found near the spot where the man had set himself alight. An eye-witness, civil rights attorney Katy Scheflen, currently on furlough from the US Justice Department, said she saw a camera set up on a tripod nearby. Scheflen had been walking along the Mall when she spotted a man nearby pick up a red gas of gasoline, pour the contents over his head then set himself ablaze.
Quoted by Press TV, Scheflen said, “At that point we didn't know what was going, maybe it was some sort of stage protest," before continuing, "And then he set himself on fire and went up in flames.”
"I saw like a spark," Sheflen added, "Then he just went completely up in flames."
Bystanders rushed to try and help. Some joggers removed their shirts and attempted to beat out the flames engulfing the unidentified man. Another eye-witness, Nicole Didyk, said the man’s “face and arms were charred” adding that the ground around him was on fire.
The latest incident happened less than 48 hours after Thursday’s high-speed car chase in Washington which culminated in the unarmed driver, Miriam Carey, a resident of Stamford, meeting her death in a hail of bullets. Carey’s one-year-old daughter, who was also in the vehicle, emerged from the incident unscathed.
Inevitably there was speculation that this latest incident in Washington was a protest at the government shutdown as Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill remain deadlocked over the US federal budget.
But there were no immediate clues as to the man’s motives for attempting self-immolation in such a prominent and busy public space. US Park Police spokeswoman Lt. Pamela Smith told the Daily News, "I'm not aware of any signage or any articulation of any causes."
In the aftermath of the human torch incident at the National Mall, Instagram user stephanie_gus, who’d earlier posted a photograph bemoaning the closure of parks in D.C. due to the government shutdown, uploaded a photo (above) showing a rescue helicopter arriving on the scene with smoke still clearly visible.
UPDATE: BBC News reports Saturday that the man at the centre of this incident has since died from his injuries. A police spokesman said the man's burns were so extensive that identification can only be carried out from DNA and dental records.
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