A flame-breathing stunt man hired to perform at a Florida high school's pep rally suffered burns to his face after his stunt went terribly wrong. Students and staff captured the incident on video, which has gone viral online (video below).
The man, 53-year-old Ricky Charles of Miramar, Florida, was performing a pyrotechnic stunt at a March 17 pep rally at Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach, Florida, when the incident occurred, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Throughout the rally, the 2,000 students sitting in the bleachers of the gymnasium were quizzed on various questions from the Florida Standards Assessment test. Whenever they answered a question correctly, someone would run down an inflatable runway leading to the basketball hoop and perform a showy slam dunk.
As part of the final act, Charles sat on the runway and blew fire into the air using a flaming stick while another performer jumped over the flames to dunk a basket.
Although students went wild at the successful slam dunk, their cheers turned to screams of panic when they realized that Charles was on fire.
His face had erupted in flames, which spread to his arms and body.
"He panicked, he was swinging his arms, trying to hit it out," 18-year-old Danny Lahav, a senior who attended the rally, told the Sun Sentinel.
The performer's face was on fire "for around 10 to 15 seconds," another senior, Anthony Stoutt, told the Palm Beach Post.
"It was pretty bad. People were screaming. Girls were crying,” Stoutt continued. “The guy looked like he got burned pretty badly. It was hard to watch."
Teachers and administrators rushed onto the floor of the gymnasium to put the fire out using extinguishers.
Shortly after the 10 a.m. incident, Charles was taken to Delray Medical Center and treated for burns. He was reported to be in good condition by late afternoon, according to a hospital spokesperson.
Although no one else was burned, seven students attending the event had to be treated at area hospitals for respiratory problems due to the chemicals from the fire extinguishers.
Kathy Burstein, a spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County School District, said that the incident was "inexcusable" and a "direct violation of District policy," which prohibits the use of pyrotechnics in the county's schools, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Although Burstein did not specify what actions will be taken against school administrators, the district's Risk Management department as well as local fire officials have reportedly opened an investigation into the incident.
Charles, a former Miami Heat stunt man and circus performer, is the owner of a Pembroke Pines-based stunt company called "Inferno's Challenge." The school hired the company to perform at the rally.