Wheelchair-bound man burns to death - CBS46 News

Wheelchair-bound man burns to death

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An unidentified man who had been riding in an electric wheelchair caught on fire Saturday afternoon and died.

Both police and fire officials are trying to determine whether the fire was intentionally set. The fire started around 5 p.m. near Metropolitan Avenue.

So far, Atlanta Fire official Sean Johnson said he believes the fire started where the man was sitting on the chair, and he doesn't believe any fuel had been poured on him.

"Usually that leaves some type of smell," Johnson said. "There was no smell."

Investigators are looking into the possibility that the fire may have started in the man's electric wheelchair. Onlooker Melvin Swinger said it appeared as though the man was trying to get out of the chair.

"His body limped over the wheelchair," Swinger said. "The wheelchair was engulfed in fire. It was like he had tried to get out the wheelchair and he was laying on the ground."

Johnson said authorities are also investigating the possibility that the man may have tried to start the fire himself. Swinger does not believe that was the case.

"He's hollering for help. He's saying, 'Help!'" Swinger recalled.

Firefighters were able to respond in two minutes to extinguish the blaze, but the man still passed away.

"It's something that we carry home with us all the time," Johnson said. "It's very difficult to deal with."

Authorities say that because the man was so badly burned, they're having a difficult time trying to identify him. Remnants from the scene will be sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for analysis. What remained of his wheelchair was impounded and sent to the Atlanta Police Department.

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