Thomson man sets head on fire during bar bet - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Thomson man sets head on fire during bar bet


"I've seen a lot of things," says Allie Katz Bar and Grill owner Bryan Birmingham. "But never something like that."

Never anything like a man on fire inside his bar.

Richmond Co. Sheriff's Office investigators say 36 year old William Bonner of Thomson was highly intoxicated late Friday night, and had a friend pour a shot of high-proof alcohol, Bacardi 151, over his head, then another friend set him ablaze.

And what started it may shock you.

"He actually bet the people he was with that he could do this," says RCSO Investigator Lt. Blaise Dresser.

It happened near the bar's darts area, and witnesses say when they realized what was actually going on, the ordeal was over.

"Pretty much confusion," says Adam Harden as he describes the scene. "I mean, not knowing what's going on, what's going to happen, what are we going to do. Then somebody drenched him out."

Bonner was on fire for 10 full seconds before the flames were extinguished.

"It was the longest ten seconds you could think of," says Harden, who stood just feet away when the flames erupted.

As Bonner burned, everyone in the crowded bar watched in stunned silence.

"All of us just stopped," says Harden.

"Everybody just kind of completely froze and had no idea what to do," says Birmingham.

Bonner ran around, trying to pat out the flames. After the fire was out, he walked out of the bar.

"His face was red, real glistening almost," says Birmingham. "It had the consistency of melted plastic. It didn't look good at all."

Birmingham and the RCSO deputy working security that night offered to call an ambulance, but Bonner got into the car with his friends.

They drove him to Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center, and he was airlifted to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital from there.

He was released Monday. No word on his condition when he arrived or what kind of injuries Bonner sustained.

Investigators will not file charges, since Bonner was a willing participant. However, a lesson can be taken from all this, they add.

"The more alcohol you consume, the more likely you are to make a horrible decision that could affect you the rest of your life," says Dresser.

Bonner has been in trouble as the result of alcohol before.

He pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Consumption in Richmond Co. in June 2008.

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