Did an Oklahoma man ignite from spontaneous human combustion?
That’s the big question authorities are trying to determine as they’re ruling out homicide, but not spontaneous combustion in the death of Danny Vanzandt, 65.
“It’s very unusual and it’s bizarre and I can’t explain it,” Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart told KFSM-TV.
Preliminary autopsy results were released to authorities Feb. 19.
“There is some burning I guess in the trachea, so the cause of death is gone be probably heat and smoke inhalation,” Lockhart said.
He told reporters it’s possible the victim burned for some 10 hours.
“The body is burned, incinerated, like I’ve never seen before and it’s some kind of chemical reaction or something the way I can see it,” he said.
Last Monday, Vanzandt’s body was sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Tulsa for an autopsy after emergency crews responded to his home the same morning.
The badly burned man was found dead in the kitchen by fire crews, and Lockhart says indications suggest spontaneous human combustion as the cause of death, as no nearby items or furniture around the body were burned.
The sheriff also says there were no signs of a struggle. The body was discovered by Vanzandt’s brother and stepson.
“The body was burned and it was incinerated,” Lockhart said. “This is a case that I’ve never seen before.”
When pressed by reporters if he was serious about it possibly being a case of spontaneous combustion, he said yes, adding: “I think there’s only about 200 cases worldwide, and I’m not saying this happened. I’m just saying that we haven’t ruled it out.”
Lockhart noted the victim was an alcoholic as well as a smoker.
“We wasn’t saying the guy just busted into flames, you know there’s gotta have an ignition source and that’s what we’re looking at is an ignition source such as lighting a cigarette and catches himself on fire, sucks the flames down his throat, and falls down,” Lockhart said.
5NEWS conducted a recorded five-minute interview with Lockhart in which the sheriff explains why he believes spontaneous human combustion might have been a factor in the death: