A Bridgehampton man inadvertently set himself, his rental car and two other vehicles on fire in an Eastport parking lot on Tuesday afternoon after he doused his vehicle in rubbing alcohol in an attempt to kill bedbugs that had infested the rental—and then lit a cigarette.
Forty-four-year-old Scott Kemery, who suffered first- and second-degree burns and had to be airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital due to his injuries, told Suffolk County Police that he was attempting to kill bedbugs in his rental car at the time by spraying its interior with rubbing alcohol. Mr. Kemery was sitting in his car outside a nearby Rite Aid, where witnesses say he bought the rubbing alcohol minutes earlier, when he ignited the blaze at around 5 p.m.
Mr. Kemery was able to escape the burning vehicle on his own, according to Suffolk County Police, and was later airlifted by medevac helicopter to the hospital. Authorities said he was conscious and alert as he was being transported.
No other injuries were reported, according to police.
Volunteers with the Eastport Fire Department responded to the scene within minutes and used a mixture of foam and water to extinguish the blaze, according to Eastport Fire Department Chief William Weick.
He added that East Moriches Community Ambulance also responded and transported Mr. Kemery to a nearby farm on Moriches-Riverhead Road where the helicopter landed. Members of the East Moriches Fire Department secured the landing zone, according to Chief Weick.
The incident is being investigated by the Suffolk County Police Arson Squad.
Police identified Mr. Kemery’s car as a Kia, though they did not know the specific make or model, or where he had rented the vehicle from.
They also declined to say where on his body he was burned.
April Goss of Remsenburg said her Dodge Grand Caravan, which was also destroyed in the blaze, was one of the two vehicles parked next to Mr. Kemery’s rental when he tried to kill the bedbugs. A third vehicle was also badly damaged by the flames.
Ms. Goss said she parked her vehicle and then went into the Rite Aid with her daughter, Laila, and another girl whom she was watching. About five minutes later she spotted smoke billowing from the parking lot and discovered that it was coming from the car she’d parked next to.
“My car wasn’t on fire yet, so I wanted to try to move it, but everyone told me that was a bad idea, so I just left it,” Ms. Goss said on Tuesday evening. “There was lots of popping and banging and explosion kind of sounds. Everyone was taking cover.”
“The parking lot was packed,” Chief Weick said, noting that a large crowd had gathered to watch the blaze. “It was five o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon there was definitely a lot of people there.”
Ms. Goss said many of those gathered advised her not to try to move her vehicle. She said a manager from the nearby King Kullen, who she knew only as Joe, braved the flames to retrieve her cellphone and pocketbook from the car before it was engulfed. Ms. Goss said everything else in her car, including the vehicle itself, was destroyed.
“We lost little, incidental CDs and jackets that we left in the car, but those things are minor, at least no one else was hurt,” Ms. Goss said. “It was dramatic for the kids, but it was a good lesson for what can be replaced and what can’t.”
An employee answering the phone at the Eastport King Kullen on Wednesday morning identified the manager as Joseph Mollica, though he was not working at the time and was unavailable for comment.