A woman in Brooklyn New York is in critical condition after she set herself on fire in the middle of a busy sidewalk after allegedly losing custody of her children to the child welfare department.
Black scorch marks could be seen on the sidewalk after the woman had been cared for by emergency crews and the area was roped off as a crime scene. The woman, described as being in her twenties, had willingly walked into St. Vincent’s Services, a social service agency for children on Boerum Place near State St. in Downtown Brooklyn, officials said, according to the Daily News, and gave her children to a social worker there. Moments later she walked out into the street where she doused her face, hair, and body with a flammable liquid that she had on her person, and set herself ablaze with a blue lighter. Onlookers said the incident occurred at 2:40 p.m. on January 13.
A security guard standing nearby rushed to her aid and stamped out the flames with his bare hands, himself receiving burns in the process. He was able to successfully put the fire out because of his quick action, but the woman was still gravely injured, and people nearby were shocked and horrified at the macabre incident. Another security guard in the area described the aftermath and the emotional reaction to the badly burned woman, who was described as having extensive facial burns.
“The workers were in shock. I saw the woman on a gurney. When they lifted her up, half her face was burned.”
Facial burns are considered to be especially concerning because they can interfere with a person’s airway and breathing and are a high risk for disfigurement and infection, which can lead to death.
She was rushed to New York Presbyterian—Weill Cornell Hospital with the critical burns to the face and neck. The security guard who assisted her sustained minor burns and a bystander was treated for smoke inhalation.
A security guard who wished only to be known as “Steve” said that the woman walked in with her children, turned them over to a caseworker and then ran out the door and into the street, where she set her face on fire.
“I heard the woman ran out of that building upset because children services took her kids.”
Police officers spent the evening looking for the blue lighter involved in the incident while the area was cordoned off during the investigation.
The Administration for Children’s Services would not comment on why the woman lost custody of her children but said that they intended to fully cooperate with a police investigation.
“Every day ACS and our contracted staff continue engaging families, including those dealing with deeply emotional issues. We are troubled by this incident and will assist the NYPD in any relevant investigation.”
The woman’s identity was not released nor were the names or ages of her children. It is not known if her children were taken due to previous psychiatric issues or if this was a first-time display of self-harm by the mother due to severe emotional distress.
Pix11 reported that bystanders gave a slightly different account of the situation, stating that the woman was only 20-years-old and that she had been standing on the street corner screaming before her children were taken, at which point she set herself on fire. Those witnesses said several people rushed to her aid, ripping her burning clothes off of her in the process.
It is not known if the children witnessed their mother setting herself ablaze or the aftermath, but onlookers were considerably shaken as they described the scene.
[Featured Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]