Man Dead After Setting Himself on Fire at UW

The man who set himself on fire in the middle of Red Square at the University of Washington this afternoon has since died at Harborview Medical Center, said Susan Gregg-Hanson, a spokesperson for the center. He was a former UW employee, according to an e-mail sent to campus by Eric Godfrey, the UW's Vice Provost for Student Life.

The incident occurred at approximately 1:02 p.m. this afternoon, said UWPD Assistant Chief Ralph Robinson. From all indications, Robinson said, this appeared to be a purposeful and individual act. The victim, in his 60s, was taken to Harborview Medical Center with second- and third-degree burns, soon after he allegedly poured gasoline over himself and set himself aflame.

Kaye Kovacs, a graduate student who witnessed the fire from Odegaard Library, said bystanders attempted to put it out, but the man appeared undeterred.

She had looked out of a window on the third floor after hearing screams.

“There was a person on fire,” she said. “He was just standing there.” She thought that there was a can of gasoline in his backpack, which bystanders pulled off while attempting to put out the flames. It was left burning on the ground. “The fire got really big, really fast,” Kovacs said. “It was bizarre.”

The motive behind the self-immolation is still under investigation, Robinson said.

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