An Oklahoma man died from ‘spontaneous combustion’ recently, according to speculation by authorities who are examining the man’s charred remains.
After neighbors of 65-year-old Danny Vanzandt saw smoke coming from his home on Monday, they called the fire department and meanwhile attempted to put out what they believed was a pile of burning trash. What they found, however, was Vanzandt’s body.
Sequoyah County authorities have not found evidence of accelerant use or any other fire damage around the home. At this point, it looks as if Vanzandt’s body spontaneously combusted and burned him alive.
Cases like this, though extremely rare, are not unheard of. Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart explained that he believes there have only been about 200 cases worldwide of human spontaneous combustion.
“This is very bizarre. You’re thinking someone poured something on him, but there was no fire source,” Lockhart said. “The body burned and it was incinerated … I’m not saying this is what it is [spontaneous combustion], but I haven’t ruled it out yet.”
According to Tulsa World, Vanzandt was a heavy drinker and smoker, but Lockhart explains that the way the body was burned is inconsistent with a cigarette dropping.
The few, bizarre cases where bodies have been found incinerated but nearby furniture and floor were found untouched by the flames have been explained by authorities as the “wick effect.” The “wick effect” theory explains that rarely, the human body can serve as a sort of inside out candle: the clothes are the wick and the body (body fat) serves as the wax that keeps the candle burning.
Temperatures of 3,000 degrees need to be reached to burn the human body to the extent that only charred remains or limbs can be recovered. There does need to be some sort of external spark, but authorities haves suggested that something as small as a static electricity spark could cause the “spontaneous combustion.”
Previous victims have been elderly or sick, and under the influence of alcohol, and so have been unable to escape the flames.
Coroners are currently performing an autopsy on Vanzandt’s remains to determine if this was the case.