Two Scott County sheriff’s deputies dragged a man out of a burning car after he threatened to commit suicide and drive the car into Boomland on Wednesday night (December 14) in Benton, Missouri.
After a short pursuit, deputy Tim Hill stopped the man about 9 p.m. near a gas pump near Boomland, Sheriff Rick Walter said.
Hill stopped the man based on a report he had driven off without paying for gasoline earlier that night, Walter said.
Deputy James Britton and Walter responded to a call from Hill, and the man threatened to kill himself and blow the place up, Walter said.
The man covered his face except for his eyes and continuously rolled his window up and down, Walter said.
Deputies could smell a strong odor of gasoline coming from the vehicle, and Walter said the man held a lighter out in front of him when Walter asked him about weapons.
Walter, Hill and Britton continued to talk with the man for about 20 minutes, and the man allowed people inside Boomland, McDonald’s and the Exxon gas station to leave, Walter said.
Deputies deployed stop sticks in front of the man’s vehicle and blocked the entrances to the gas station, he said.
The man then lit the inside of his car on fire at about the same time firefighters pulled up to the scene, Walter said.
“The car started to blaze; the inside of the car was on fire,” he said.
Hill and Britton acted quickly, pulling the man — who had doused himself in gasoline — out of the vehicle before he caught on fire, Walter said.
“I guess there was enough inside gasoline that probably within 30 seconds of having him out on the ground, the inside of the vehicle was fully engulfed,” Walter said. “He was fighting the whole time. We pulled him several yards from the car because he had gas on him and we had gas on us.”
New Hamburg, Benton and Commerce firefighters extinguished the car fire before the gas tank exploded, Walter said.
He said Britton and the man were taken to a local hospital, where Britton was treated for smoke inhalation.
“He was very fortunate,” Walter said of the man.
Walter said deputies had run into the man the previous week on suspicion of misdemeanor thefts, and they knew he was having a tough time.
Deputies still are investigating and determining whether to request charges, Walter said.
He said part of the investigation is determining whether the man was in the midst of a mental-health crisis.
Walter declined to release identifying information about the man.
“In this case, you’re at a gas station; not only it is a gas station, but it’s fireworks,” Walter said. “That could have been very bad.”
By Ben Kleine ~ Southeast Missourian