Lowcountry teen dies a day after setting self on fire

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A North Charleston student is dead after being badly burned at school Wednesday morning. Investigators say the fire was a direct result of the boy's desire to harm himself.

The Charleston County School District hasn't said exactly what happened Wednesday morning on the campus of Academic Magnet High School and the School of the Arts, but fire officials say they found an accelerant on remnants of 16-year-old Aaron Williams's clothes.

Williams died on Thursday at the Augusta Burn Center.

A day after students and administrators looked on in horror as the boy was enveloped in fire, one parent who witnessed the scene is still shaken by the image. "It was an awful scene," said Kurt Taylor. "It's not something you ever want to see in your life."

Taylor had just dropped off something at Academic Magnet High School for his daughter Wednesday morning when he saw the fire. "I heard a commotion outside the door and looked out and saw the young man on fire out there," he said.

Witnesses say the 16-year-old junior was screaming and running toward the main entrance of the school. "It's hard to describe," Taylor said. "It was surreal, hard to realize what you're seeing is really happening."

Taylor says one student grabbed a fire extinguisher. "Things were moving fast at that point, but he may very well have used it," he said. "I believe maybe the guidance counselors from the school helped him use it to put the flames out."

"There's a student on fire? Oh my God!" said the school's receptionist just before speaking with the 911 operator. "We have a student on fire." [Listen to the 911 call (MP3)]

"How did the child catch on fire?" the 911 operator asked.

"I don't know," responded the receptionist. "They're putting him out with an extinguisher and there are people out there assisting her."

Taylor says police, firefighters, EMS, school personnel and parents pulled together to try to help. "I think that's a tremendous statement to human nature of the community there, that nobody hesitated and waited and stood back," continued Taylor. "They all were trying to help the young man."

Taylor says now is not the time to speculate why it happened or who's to blame. "The most important thing of course is to keep the young man and his family in our prayers," he said.

Related Story

Copyright WCSC 2010. All rights reserved.