India: Father Carrying Son Across Hot Coals Drops Him, Boy Suffers Serious Injuries

A six-year-old boy in India is being treated for severe injuries after his father, carrying him across a bed of hot coals as part of a religious ritual, dropped the young boy onto the red-hot coals.

As The Times of India reports, the father, whose name has not been released as of this writing, was walking across the hot coals while carrying his six-year-old son, Kartik, in his arms. When the father lost his balance, he slipped and dropped Kartik onto the coals. You can see photos of the accident in the tweet embedded below. Note that although the caption says the devotee dropped his daughter, media reports indicate that it was his son.

As Kartik screamed in agony, his family ignored his screams, saying that they believed God would heal him. Bystanders, however, rushed to the boy’s aid, pulling him out of the hot coals and seeing to it that he got medical care.

Dr. Jangpreet Singh said that both father and son were injured, the son much more severely.

“The boy was admitted last [Sunday] night in the emergency ward. He has burn injuries on his limbs and on one side of his trunk. The father has also sustained about 15 percent burns. I think it will take at least five to seven days for their wounds to heal.”

The father and son were about 600 devotees of the goddess Maa Maariamma, gathered in the northwest India city of Jalandhar to attend a festival in her honor. To appease the Hindu deity, devotees must fast for seven days before walking across hot coals.

This is not the first time a child has sustained injuries while a parent carried him or her across hot coals in honor of the Hindu goddess. In 2013, a mother carrying her daughter also slipped and fell on the hot coals during the same act of devotion, causing injuries to both mother and daughter as well.

You may be surprised to learn that walking across hot coals, when done under controlled conditions (and not doing so while carrying children) is actually pretty safe. Thanks to human biology, the laws of physics, and good timing, you could walk across a bed of hot coals tonight and be just fine (NOTE: if there was ever a case of “Don’t Try This At Home,” this is it).

According to Physics & Astronomy Online, it’s possible to safely walk across hot coals because of the way heat is stored in the coals and how your body reacts to heat.

“Before a person walks through burning coal, the person will make sure their feet are very wet. When they start walking on the coal, this moisture will evaporate and form a protective gas layer underneath the person’s feet. Very often, the coals or wood embers that are used in fire walking also have a low heat capacity. Sweat produced on the bottom of people’s feet also helps form a protective water vapor. All of this together makes it possible, if moving quickly enough, to walk across hot coals without getting burned.”

Of course, just because physics is on your side, doesn’t necessarily mean that accidents won’t happen. As you can see in the video below, Mythbuster Adam Savage found out the hard way that hot coals can be, well, hot.

As of this writing, it is not clear if the Indian father who accidentally dropped his son onto a bed of hot coals will face any criminal charges.

[Image via Shutterstock/schankz]