Florida man sets self on fire while setting up burning cross display

A Florida man suffered second-degree burns after police said he set himself on fire putting up a Halloween display that involved lighting a wooden cross on fire.

Ron Nielson, 50, was setting up the display with his wife outside their Palm Bay-area home Tuesday. Neighbors told police Nielson was creating a circle of candles with a wooden cross in the middle when he accidentally lit himself on fire, according to Yvonne Martinez, a spokeswoman for the Palm Bay Police Department.

“It started as some kind of prank, apparently, and involved a wooden cross. We don’t know if he was trying to light the cross or the candles but when he did, his clothes caught fire,” Martinez said, according to Florida Today.

When Nielson poured gasoline onto the display, his clothes caught fire, leaving him with burns on about 50 percent of his body, mainly scarring his upper-torso area.

The incident occurred around 8 p.m., Martinez said. Nielson was airlifted to the Orlando Regional Medical Center’s burn unit. His condition has not been disclosed.

A fire marshal told Martinez the area where Nielson was setting up the display was not properly ventilated, which caused the vapors and Nielson’s clothes to catch fire.

Police are still investigating the scene.