Suffolk County police say a man was trying to kill bedbugs in a rental car by saturating them with rubbing alcohol when he accidentally set the vehicle on fire in the Eastport King Kullen and Rite Aid parking lot Tuesday at 5 p.m.
“He purchased rubbing alcohol and poured it in the car then and he sat in his car and lit a cigarette,” police said. The vehicle caught on fire and the man was able to escape without assistance.
The 44-year-old man suffered first- and second-degree burns but was conscious and alert when he was airlifted via Suffolk police medevac helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital, according to authorities. The rental car and two adjacent parked vehicles that were unoccupied, a Dodge Caravan and a Dodge Durango, were destroyed in the blaze.
April Goss of Remsenburg, the owner of the Caravan, said she was at the pharmacy counter in Rite Aid when she saw the smoke and ran outside.
“I was going to back my car out but they said, ‘No,’” Goss said. “So my car just took off next and then his car burnt up.”
The Durango owner, Rachael Benson of Manorville, was in King Kullen when the fire started. When she got outside, there was a spectacle in the parking lot. “There were firetrucks and police cars everywhere,” she said.
It was only the car and the Caravan that were on fire, then the car exploded, blowing into her Durango, Benson said.
Eastport Fire Department extinguished the flames. Both Suffolk County and Southampton Town police responded to the scene, as well as a fire marshal. Suffolk arson investigators are looking into the fire.