There are a handful of popular YouTube videos – some of them with views in the tens of thousands – that show fingertips glowing with unearthly blue flame. The videos, made by amateur Internet daredevils in nondescript kitchens or darkened workshops, typically begin with pools of alcoholic hand sanitizer being set alight. The daredevils then dip their fingertips, or perhaps an entire hand, into the flaming gel. Once the blue flame finishes dripping from their fingers, the fire-wielders seem to escape unscathed; in theory, the quick-burning fuel runs out before any skin is singed.
Few come with warnings. One video, “How to hold fire in your hand (fire bending),” which has been viewed more than 2 million times, exhorted viewers not to worry “and just do it because it has no pain involved.”
That was not the case for 8-year-old James Ditucci.
James and two other young boys gathered in Concord, New Hampshire, for a sleepover last week. After James’s mother put them to bed, they decided to emulate the YouTube trick. As his 10-year-old brother and cousin watched, James set the gel aflame. His shirt, however, had been soaked in sanitizer. In seconds, his clothes were on fire.
“I heard just god-awful, blood-curdling cries and screams,” Tashia Ditucci, James’s mother, said to Boston’s WCVB-TV. “My son came downstairs, and he was just really red, and you could see burns all over him.”
Though his brother and cousin had quickly extinguished the flames, James was severely hurt in the stunt. He was transported from New Hampshire to the Shriners Hospitals for Children, a Boston medical center known for its expertise in pediatric burns. There, doctors tended to the second-degree burns that damaged the boy’s hands, thighs and chest, which covered about 15 percent of his body.
Ditucci posted a warning to Facebook, condemning the YouTube videos and asking for parents to pay attention to what their children are watching on the Internet. She warned to WMUR that the incident could have been worse. “They said if my son was on fire for another minute, he would’ve been dead,” she said. “It would’ve smothered his lungs and he wouldn’t have made it.”
The assistant chief of New Hampshire’s Merrimack Fire Department, Brian Borneman, told WMUR that such stunts were quite dangerous.”Alcohol burns blue, and the purer it is, it would get even clearer or you might not see it at all,” he said.
Ditucci wrote on Facebook that her son was recovering and likely would not need skin grafts. “Keep the prayers coming please,” she said.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Ben Guarino