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Smoking patient lights hospital aflame

DALLAS – A patient who was wearing an oxygen mask tried to light a cigarette in his hospital room, sparking a fire that forced the evacuation of more than 100 patients, destroyed the room and melted medical equipment, officials said.

A nurse at Methodist Dallas Medical Center rescued the man from his burning bed shortly after the blaze started the night of July 13. He suffered serious burns and was taken to the burn unit at another Dallas hospital, but no one else was hurt, hospital officials said.

“He somehow got the strength to smoke a cigarette with a non-removable mask,” Dallas Fire-Rescue Capt. Paul Martinez said. “I don’t know how he did it, but he did it.”

Hospital sprinklers kept the blaze mostly in one room, said fire Lt. Joel Lavender.

Officials didn’t release the man’s name or condition Friday, citing medical privacy laws.


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Free gas sets off crashes in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE – Two car crashes occurred and four people were arrested in excitement over a gasoline giveaway July 12 to reward the city for its safe-driving record.

For the most part, hundreds of drivers waited patiently for hours for about $30 worth of free gasoline each that Allstate Insurance provided at one station.

However, some motorists started lining up before midnight and the queue stretched far from the station into a residential area, trapping some residents in their driveways, said police spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz.

That led to fights and arrests for disorderly conduct. In one case, three officers were sent to a hospital as a precaution after they were spattered with blood from someone’s bloodied nose, Schwartz said.

The two crashes apparently occurred when queued-up motorists tried to let friends into line, Schwartz said.

“Any time you offer free gas when it is $3 a gallon, it is not surprising people would get excited,” she said.

Allstate gave away a tanker-truck-load of gasoline as a reward to Milwaukee for ranking No. 1 among mid-sized cities on its safe drivers list. The insurance company gave free gas to more than 700 motorists, said company official Bill Mellander.

The giveaway lasted a couple of hours, Schwartz said.

Clarence Jefferson said he thought he’d be first in line when he got there at 4 a.m. – but found hundreds of others already ahead of him. Pumps were turned on at about 6 a.m.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “It helps. Every bit is worth it.”


Woman blinded by husband with carrot

MONROE, Conn. – A 46-year-old man is accused of assaulting his wife with a carrot, causing her to lose sight in one eye. Roderick Vecsey is charged with second-degree assault and disorderly conduct.

Pamela Vecsey, 46, underwent six hours of surgery after being hit in the left eye with the vegetable July 15, but doctors were not able to restore her vision, prosecutor Stephanie Damiani said.

The couple was arguing when Roderick Vecsey tossed the carrot, Damiani said.

Roderick Vecsey told Judge Patrick Carroll that it was a terrible accident, and was advised to remain silent. Vecsey is currently free after posting $500 bond.


Hero subdues robber with applesauce

PHILADELPHIA – A customer at a city grocery tackled an armed robber and beat him with a can of applesauce when he refused to drop his gun, police said.

The suspect shot himself in the head during the struggle, and passed out after the 66-year-old customer administered four blows to the head with the Mott’s applesauce.

“Finally, the guy passes out,” said Det. Curtis Matthews. “There’s blood everywhere, on the floor, all over.”

About 15 customers were in Gomez Grocery in the city’s East Germantown section when the gunman walked in July 16, jumped atop a small freezer and pointed the gun at store owner Eddie Gomez, police said.

Customer Thomas Santana, who is 5-foot-4, grabbed the 6-foot-1 gunman from behind when he was on the freezer, and with help from Gomez knocked him down.

The suspect, 23-year-old Thomas Reyes, was in stable condition at a hospital, and was expected to be charged with attempted murder, attempted robbery and other charges, authorities said.