Robert Seals, 15, of Orlando, Florida, was on life support before being flown to Shriners Hospitals’ burn center in Cincinnati after a fire challenge went terribly wrong, leaving him with second- and third-degree burns on 20 percent of his body. According to Orlando Sentinel, Seals – who lives with his aunt, Lisa Oliphant, on Forestdale Avenue in Pine Hills – went across the street to hang out with two neighborhood kids – aged 15 and 12 – whose names have not been released.
Typically, the teens would meet up to play basketball but that day they decided to emulate a “risky, viral social-media stunt known as the “fire challenge” where participants would douse themselves with a flammable liquid and set themselves on fire. In this case, Seals poured a significant amount of rubbing alcohol on his torso and asked one of his friends to ignite him with a lighter in lieu of executing it himself. The boy obliged, sending Seals up in flames. He began running down the street, using the stop, drop, and roll method to put the fire out but it was to no avail.
According to Fox 29, neighbor Esther Ruiz said she heard the teen outside screaming in agony as she was making dinner for her family saying, “Help me. Help me, I’m on fire.”
“We come outside, and you see him running and he’s literally lit on fire.”
Another neighbor, Michael Winn, said that you could see “burning skin peeling off and eyebrows and everything else getting burnt. It’s stupid to see it, because they got them [videos] posted on there and kids don’t understand what it is. They see all these burn marks and everything, and they want to go through it themselves.” Winn went on to say that he hoped Seals recovers from his injuries and that “Everybody’s got prayers out and everything else, so we’re hoping he’s getting better.”
It wasn’t long after that Seals’ aunt walked outside and witnessed the horrifying scene of her nephew running down the street engulfed in flames. “I was screaming,” she said. “I was steady, telling him, ‘Your shirt is on fire. Take your shirt off,’ because he was burning from the back.” She eventually called 911 dispatch, who told her that she would need to pour cold water on him in order to put the fire out. After doing so, Seals sat on the curb and began having trouble breathing. When paramedics arrived, he was rushed to Arnold Palmer Hospital where he was placed on life support.
“We saw him [Seals] get in the ambulance. His skin was peeling off his arms. His chest was already turning white. I mean, he was just screaming,” said Ruiz. “I’m scared for my daughter to be playing out here knowing kids are lighting other kids on fire. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Seals was later flown to Shriners Hospitals’ burn center in Cincinnati after sustaining burns on over 20 percent of his body. The teen’s aunt said that everything below his eyes was severely burned. “He started swelling in the neck,” Oliphant said. “They don’t know whether he inhaled fire as well, so they got him sedated.”
After Seal was flown to another hospital, relatives gathered at his aunts’ home trying to make sense of it all. They claimed that Seals is a great kid and loves sports, and they never thought he would do something so dangerous that could possibly take his life.
Investigators spoke with the teen that set Seals on fire and he stated that they were doing the fire challenge for fun and had no intentions of uploading the stunt on social media as it was not recorded.
Police officials are investigating the incident and contemplating on whether or not to charge the boy who set Seals on fire. As of yet, no one has been arrested in connection to the incident. Oliphant says that her “nephew is permanently damaged and that boy did bodily harm to my nephew…the boy’s big enough to know right from wrong. I want something done about it.”
The fire challenge incident is currently being reviewed by the State Attorney’s Office.
[Image courtesy of WFTV]