Spontaneous Combustion Eyed in Oklahoma Man’s Death

ABC News(TULSA, Okla.) -- Police are probing the mysterious death of an Oklahoma man, who died from what appears to be spontaneous combustion.

The charred remains of Danny Vandandt, 65, were found in the kitchen of his Tulsa bungalow Monday, officials said. But the home itself was unscathed.

Officials said smoke escaping from the windows of the home was the only sign of a fire. Still, what sparked the flames and fueled the blaze remain a mystery.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart said, adding that a plastic ice box was three feet away from the body, and the plastic handles of a nearby stove were intact with no signs of melting.

“Everything fits to a T,” Lockhart said of the spontaneous combustion theory. “But it’s still a theory. I don’t know.”

This is not the first time spontaneous combustion has been considered as a cause of death. In 2011, a U.K. court delivered the controversial verdict in the burning death of a 76-year-old Irishman whose charred body was discovered in his home with no trace of accelerant. Scorch marks from the fire were seen only on the ceiling above the body and the floor below.

Proposed explanations for spontaneous combustion range from static electricity to divine intervention. One theory, called the wick effect, paints a person’s clothes as a wick, of sorts, and their body fat as a fuel source. But the burning would take several hours, and the wick-effect theory fails to explain the absence of an ignition source or accelerant.

Some experts dismiss claims that such cases occur spontaneously, arguing instead that the flame’s source, such as a match or cigarette, must be masked by the badly burned body.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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