WILLIAMS, Ariz. — A Texas man has passed away after attempting suicide by lighting himself on fire near the Grand Canyon Railway tracks north of Williams April 9.
Coconino County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) said the 57-year old man was engaged to be married and drove from Texas to Arizona with the intention of ending his own life.
“He was supposed to be getting married and something obviously upset him enough — whatever was going on, that he left Texas, drove here and lit himself on fire,” said Jon Paxton, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
The incident occurred around 7:35 p.m. April 9 when High Country Fire Rescue responded to a call for a bonfire and a subject yelling “let me die” with possible shots fired in the area of the 5500 block of Pitt Tank Road.
Upon arrival at the vacant five-acre lot, located between Pitt Tank Road and Grand Canyon Railway tracks, crews found the man, approximately 20 yards from his vehicle fully engulfed in flames.
“He had crawled out of the vehicle after he had lit himself and the vehicle on fire,” Paxton said.
By that time, the vehicle fire had spread to a wildland fire.
High Country Fire and Rescue knocked down the head of the advancing fire, containing it to one acre and the vehicle fire within five minutes. CCSO deputies, along with a High Country Fire and Rescue EMT, attended to the man until Life Line Ambulance arrived. The man was transported to Maricopa Burn Center in Phoenix by Guardian Air Angel in critical condition with second and third degree burns over 80 percent of his body.
The man was alone at the time of the incident and admitted, on scene, to starting the vehicle fire in an attempt to commit suicide.
“This guy was supposed to be getting married in Texas. Something was going on that he left and came over here to kill himself,” Paxton said. “He somehow drove from Texas to that location at Pitt Tank Road to kill himself.”
Paxton said deputies searched for a handgun but were unable to find one at the scene.
“There was a report of shots fired but we are unable to confirm whether that really happened. We didn’t find a gun on scene. The people calling it in may have heard stuff popping on the car,” he said.
Additionally, investigators do not know how the man started the fire.
“It was totally engulfed when we got there, the vehicle (a 2008 Jeep Commander) was just gone. Fire (investigators) may be able to test that and determine that, but we don’t know,” Paxton said.
APS and Grand Canyon Railroad were notified of the incident. APS responded for damage to power poles and power lines.
High Country Fire responded to the scene with two engines, two water tenders, Rescue 10 and Chief 1.
High Country Fire Chief Robert Trotter commended the quick actions of the volunteer firefighters of High Country Fire and Rescue for extinguishing the wildland fire and vehicle fire under adverse conditions and for preventing the fire from spreading toward numerous homes in the area. Trotter also commended Coconino County Sheriff Deputy Allie MacArthur and Sergeant Ethan Mitkowski for their actions and saving the victim from further injuries as well as assisting the EMTs on scene.