Warning: Distressing Content
A man set himself on fire outside the White House earlier today, the US Secret Service has confirmed.
Videos posted to social media after the incident, which took place this afternoon (May 29), showed the man engulfed in flames as cars drove past.
The Secret Service confirmed the incident in a tweet, noting the man was later treated by officials with the National Park Service and US Park Police.
At approximately 12:20 p.m. a man lit himself on fire on the Ellipse near 15th and Constitution Ave., Secret Service personnel are on scene assisting @NatlParkService and @usparkpolicepio in rendering first aid.
— U.S. Secret Service (@SecretService) May 29, 2019
The incident occurred around 12.20pm on the Ellipse in downtown Washington, not far from the White House. The Ellipse is a 52-acre park area that lies south of the White House in the heart of Washington.
A spokesperson for the Washington Fire Department told CNBC:
I can confirm that we’ve transported one patient with burns from the Ellipse and we’re now on the scene assisting law enforcement.
In a distressing clip posted to social media of the incident, sirens can be heard moments before the man is covered with a retardant which puts the flames out.
Warning: distressing content
— Krisjan Berzins (@KrisjanBerzins) May 29, 2019
The man was immediately provided with first aid by the National Park Service and US Park Police before being sent to hospital. The incident happened just north of the Washington Monument.
Secret Service spokesperson Jeffrey Adams said in a statement provided to CNBC that a ‘male individual lit himself on fire’, after which the agency’s Uniformed Division Officers ‘responded in seconds’.
The individual is being transported to a local hospital.
White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley said he could not immediately comment, adding they were ‘looking into it’.
Warning: distressing content
The saddest thing I’ve ever seen. A person set themselves on fire in the park at the south lawn of the Whitehouse. Please pray for their soul pic.twitter.com/OjTL0kGWa7
— patlangs (@LangsPat) May 29, 2019
Alina Berzins, 17, witnessed the man set himself on fire as she was visiting the National Mall with two of her cousins.
The 17-year-old told CNBC:
We saw this man. He starts running, and then we saw him covered in flames. He started to walk [and then] cops started coming to the area and he collapsed. Everybody was in shock. I was in shock.
Berzins added that dozens of law-enforcement officers quickly flooded the scene and were then joined by a helicopter and multiple Fire Department vehicles.
The man’s condition is not yet known.
Our thoughts go out to the man and his family at this difficult time.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).