Child suffers severe burns
RCMP call fire "accidental"

by Janet Smellie
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 10/97) - A 13-year-old Yellowknife youth remains in serious but stable condition in an Edmonton Hospital with severe burns to his lower body and arms after becoming engulfed in flames early Sunday morning.

Witnesses on Otto Drive called the fire department shortly before 1 a.m. after they spotted a burst of flames coming from a ravine overlooking the lake.

One witness told Yellowknifer that he heard screams and watched as a young boy came running towards him screaming, "I've been burned, I've been burned."

A resident then tried to comfort the child on her veranda while a dozen neighbors awaited paramedics to arrive. In shock and gross discomfort, the teenager kept shouting over and over, "He poured gas on me," and "I'm going to die," as well as making several cries for his mother as the resident held him in her arms.

The boy was rushed to Stanton Regional Hospital, where he was treated for first- and second-degree burns to his legs and arms. He was then sent to University Hospital in Edmonton on Monday morning where he is currently being treated on the burn treatment unit. His mother is at his side.

RCMP Const. Scott MacPherson, one of the dozen officers called to the incident, said they found two lighters and a gas container near the scene which also showed a three metre patch of burned area in the lawn of the park.

The RCMP also spent several hours searching for an 11-year-old foster child who had been spotted near the scene and was believed to have information.

Police said he was finally found in the downtown area around 2:30 a.m. and taken to the police station. Four other youth, including a 14-year-old who was at the scene prior to the fire were subsequently tracked down and questioned.

Staff Sgt. Dave Grundy said Tuesday once these boys were questioned at length, the investigation ruled out that the boy was intentionally set on fire.

"What it appears is that these kids were playing with gasoline and the one kid accidentally became ignited. We have no evidence to show he had gas poured on him. They were goofing around, this certainly appears to be no deliberate act," Grundy said.