Apparent case of spontaneous combustion in the USA. “Nonsense” says blogger, based on absolutely no knowledge whatsoever apart from what he can glean in precisely 2.7 seconds via Google …

Posted: February 20, 2013 in Popular Culture et al
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Danny Vanzandt's house, where he mysteriously burned to death. There are two things I have learned never to do when drunk - smoke a cigarette or take a night-time laxative. Tell your friends.

Danny Vanzandt’s house, where he mysteriously burned to death. There are two things I have learned never to do when drunk – smoke a cigarette or take a night-time laxative. Tell your friends.

I have always loved the line in Sherlock Holmes (and elsewhere, quoted in Poirot, and many others) that when all else has been explained, the inexplicable or the impossible must be true.

However in the case of so-called spontaneous combustion, as is revealed in this very helpful Wikipedia article, in as many cases as have been examined closely, the cause of this peculiar and shocking phenomenon is actually usually quite clear.

A person, usually elderly or infirm, or affected by drugs or alcohol, and often a smoker, strays too close to a fire source – heater, kitchen, candle, etc. And once alight, they lack the wherewithall to escape the flames.

As a result, the body literally feeds on itself – the so called “wick” effect – until it is consumed, either entirely, or often the upper portion of the body, where most fat resides.

That will not stop credulous police or observers making an assumption of peculiar spontaneous combustion before a forensic examination of the scene or an autopsy, nor will it stop the world’s media breathlessly reporting the case.

As you can see from the following Yahoo article, the comments of Sheriff Lockhart actually completely support the known characteristics of this distressing phenomenon: in this case, very probably, a cigarette catching alight a drunken person, who then “combusts” with no added accelerant needed – because the accelerant is their own body. Anyway, very sad, but really no need to go blaming Old Nick or any other supernatural causes. Nor is it a sign of the end of the world.

Spontaneous combustion theory in man’s death

Police in America are investigating what they believe could be a case of spontaneous combustion after the charred remains of a man were found in his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Investigators say there was no other fire damage and there was no evidence of an accelerant being used.

"This is very bizarre," said Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart. "You're thinking someone poured something on him, but there was no fire source." Well, there was a fire course. It was himself.

“This is very bizarre,” said Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart. “You’re thinking someone poured something on him, but there was no fire source.” Well, there was a fire source. It was himself.

Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart told NewsOn6.com that deputies were called to the house after a neighbour saw smoke coming from the home.

Sheriff Lockhart said they found the nearly completely charred remains of a man in the kitchen.

The man was identified as 65-year-old Danny Vanzandt, according to local reports.

The man’s remains have been sent to the medical examiner.

Sheriff Lockhart told 5News: “The body was burned and it was incinerated. This is a case that I’ve never seen before. This is very bizarre. You’re thinking someone poured something on him, but there was no fire source.

The body was burned and it was incinerated. I think there is only about 200 cases (of spontaneous combustion) worldwide. I’m not saying this is what it is, but I haven’t ruled it out.”

Well, rule it our, Sheriff, coz it doesn’t happen. A veteran law enforcer with 20 years in arson investigation for the Fort Smith, Ark., Police Department, Lockhart has never seen anything like it. Fair enough too, but so have very few people, hence, no doubt, the good Sheriff’s confusion.

Authorities said the man had a history of heavy drinking and smoking, according to Tulsa World. But Sheriff Lockhart said the way his body was burned was inconsistent with an accidental fire – such as from a cigarette dropping. Probably not. In fact, for “spontaneous combustion” to occur a cigarette is very often the cause, and the cigarette remains, of course, are duly consumed in the resulting fire.

Nevertheless, for whatever reasons – usually cost or lack of expertise – not all cases of spontaneous combustion ever get investigated closely enough to explain the cause, which is why these sad events provoke such superstitious speculation. A baffled coroner ruled last year that a man who burned to death in his home died as a result of spontaneous human combustion. In other cases of apparent spontaneous human combustion, in December 2001, a 73-year-old woman in Garden Grove, California, died from the third-degree burns to 90 percent of her body. The fire took only four minutes to extinguish and was confined to a couch, a table, and the chair in which the victim was sitting.

And on March 24, 1997, John O’Connor, 76, was found dead in his living room at Gortaleen in northern Ireland.

An intense and localized heat had left only his head, upper torso, and feet unburned, as well as the chair in which he was sitting.

There was very little smoke damage done to the room or the furniture.

Read the Wikipedia article, Dear Reader, and it will become clear why.

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