Posted: 4/19/2001 6:54:09 AM EDT
Second State Teen Suffers Burns In Copycat Incident
By TINA A. BROWN
The Hartford Courant
April 19, 2001
Jose Serrano and his friends were horsing around Tuesday evening, doing their own version of stunts from the popular MTV show "Jackass" - back flips and leaps over chain-link fences - when they stumbled upon a can of engine degreaser.
The word "flammable" on the white can jumped out at the boys, ranging in age from 11 to 15, who immediately thought of their own "safer" way to imitate stuntman Johnny Knoxville's fire trick from the cable television show, eyewitnesses said.
The prank landed Serrano, 11, in Connecticut Children's Medical Center, where he was treated for minor second-degree burns on his leg. Police and fire officials said he wrapped a rag soaked in the degreaser around his gym pants, and set it on fire.
Inspectors from Hartford's fire marshal's office are investigating the incident, which appears to be the first "Jackass" copycat incident in Hartford, Fire Marshal William Abbott said. This is the second time in recent months that a Connecticut youth has attempted to mimic the moves of Knoxville, the show's main character. Similar incidents have been reported in Ohio and Florida.
In January, 14-year-old Jason Lind, of Torrington, was badly burned when he and his friends poured dirt bike fuel on his clothing and set it afire. He suffered second- and third-degree burns on his hands and legs, and said later that his stunt was foolish and he was afraid to call for help because he didn't want his parents to find out.
Responding for the first time, an MTV spokeswoman said Wednesday "While we don't accept responsibility, obviously we feel horrible when a young person does something to hurt themselves."
"Like other programmers, we take great care to air our shows responsibly. Jackass airs with a TV-MA rating, with written and verbal warnings throughout the show, clearly stating that the stunts should not be imitated."
The warning says, "the following show features stunts performed by professionals under very strict control and supervision. MTV and the producers insist that neither you or anyone else attempt to recreate or perform anything you have seen on this show."
Asked if MTV was attempting to target the show toward young boys, the spokeswoman said the vast majority of the show's audience is 18 to 49. She declined further comment. The show moved its time slot to 10 p.m. after the first copycat incident.
Tuesday's incident was strikingly similar to previous incidents. The boys with Serrano, Justin Torres, 14; Jose Quinonez, 14; and one other child, said that Serrano was eager to participate in the prank but immediately afraid that his mother would find out he had been playing "Jackass."
The boys, who witnessed the incident, gave the following account of what happened:
When they saw the can of engine degreaser, they interpreted the word flammable as "something fun,'' Torres and Quinonez said Wednesday.
Torres recalled saying "Let's do it,'' as they stood behind a housing complex on Lisbon Street with Serrano. They had all seen or at least heard about the episode in which Knoxville had set most of his clothing on fire and lived.
What would it hurt to set a pant leg on fire, said Torres, who sprayed the substance found beh