Veteran Burns Himself Alive at VA Clinic in New Jersey


A retired sailor walked nine miles away from home to the facility where he was being treated and committed fiery suicide.The last evidence of the life of Charles Richard Ingram III is a circle of scorched earth next to a Veterans Affairs clinic.

Ingram, a seven-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, arrived at the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic around 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 19. Ingram had been here before for treatment, but this would be his last visit.

The 51-year-old walked nine miles from his home in Egg Harbor, past an American Legion park and a memorial dedicated to military veterans, before finally stopping a few yards short of the clinic parking lot curb. Once there, he doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire.

A motorist called 911, according to Capt. Paul Newman of the Northfield Police Department, and firefighters arrived three minutes later. A bystander was already at Ingram’s side, trying to extinguish the fire with blankets. Twenty minutes later, Ingram was airlifted to Temple University Burn Center in Philadelphia, where he died that evening.

“I’ve seen people die before with complications associated with minor burns, but he was 100 percent burned,” Northfield assistant fire chief Lauren William Crooks told The Daily Beast. “Gasoline burns extremely hot, so how he survived the short time that he did was in my opinion a little unbelievable, but people react in unpredictable ways to trauma.”

Self-immolation accounted for 0.04 percent of all suicides in the United States in the past 15 years on record. (By comparison, firearms were used in approximately 50 percent of suicides.) The act is most commonly associated with protest, as in the iconic images of Buddhist monks in Tibet and South Vietnam.

Capt. Newman said he was supposed have the afternoon off but was called in and arrived before Ingram was evacuated.

”Regardless of where you work, that’s a significant thing, one you hope to never have to see in your career,” he said.

On a recent day, a halo of black char crowned an arc of the oblong plot of black dirt in the otherwise verdant field outside the clinic. An oak tree’s trunk was ashen gray at the base and charcoal black above, the sole witness to Ingram’s suicide. The dirt had been raked and the mound dressed in flowers and flags.

Three floral bouquets were laid at the burnt edge next to a stylized cross; a crystal butterfly atop a thin wrought iron pedestal was flanked by two spotless American flags; a pinwheel with metallic red, white, and-blue spokes stood beside another bouquet. Someone had placed a single empty bottle of pale ale in front of one of the flags. Altogether it would have resembled a solemn grave had it not been so strikingly scarred by the recent moment of violence there.

“Rich,” as he was known to family and friends, served in the Navy from 1985 to 1992, attaining the rank of chief petty officer. He left behind a wife, Billie, and two children, ages 3 and 5. The day before he killed himself, a local newspaper photographed the kids playing with other locals at nearby John F. Kennedy Park. Two days prior was his wife’s birthday; his daughter’s fourth birthday was two weeks away.

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Source: The Daily Beast | Kenneth Lipp