"In retrospect, lighting the match was my mistake. But I was only
trying to retrieve my son's rat." Dick Stone told doctors in the
severe burns unit of San Francisco City Hospital. Admitted for
emergency treatment after an attempt to retrieve the rat had gone
seriously wrong, he explained,
"My son left the cage door open, so his rat, Vermin, escaped into
the garage. As usual, it looked for a good place to hide, and ran up
the exhaust pipe of my motorcycle. I tried to retrieve Vermin by
offering him food attached to a string, but he wouldn't come out
again, so I peered into the pipe and struck a match, thinking the
light might attract him."
At a hushed press conference, a hospital spokesman described what
had happened next. "The flame ignited a pocket of residual gas and a
flame shot out the pipe igniting Mr. Stone's moustache and severely
burned his face.
It also set fire to the pet rat's fur and whiskers which, in turn,
ignited a larger pocket of gas further up the exhaust pipe which
propelled the rodent out like a cannonball." Stone suffered second-
degree burns, and a broken nose from the impact of the pet rat. His
son was grounded for 6 weeks.