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Pants fire not crime, police say
Fire that burned man's legs outside closed Culpeper market remains a mystery.


Date published: 12/21/2010

BY DONNIE JOHNSTON

At first, Culpeper town police thought that a man who was seriously burned outside a convenience store was pumping gas when the accident occurred.

After watching surveillance video, however, they aren't sure exactly what happened.

Shortly after 12:30 a.m. yesterday, authorities were alerted that there was a vehicle on fire near the gas pumps at Mosby Meadow Market on North Main Street Extended.

Town police officer Scott Woodward and Culpeper County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Lewis found a 2000 GMC pickup at the scene, but it was not on fire.

A short distance away, however, there was a small clothing fire in the parking lot and also an incoherent man whose legs had been burned, according to town police spokesman Wally Bunker. There were also smoldering ashes near the truck.

At first, police thought the man, whose name was not released, had lit a cigarette while, or immediately after, pumping gas. The station, however, had been closed for more than 30 minutes and the gas pumps were off, Bunker said.

When police were able to review surveillance video taken during the incident they discovered that the 50-year-old man, who is in serious condition at the University of Virginia Medical Center, had been sitting in his truck at the time.

"Small flashes of light could be seen inside the truck on the video," Bunker said. "Shortly after, the man emerged from the truck [and] the video showed his clothes on fire."

Town police Lt. Chris Settle said the incident was "not a criminal matter" and the department would not investigate further.

Donnie Johnston:
Email: djohnston@freelancestar.com