Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Maine Self-Immolation

Sad news, indeed.

A 18-year-old Connecticut man has died after apparently dousing himself with gasoline and setting fire to himself, according to a Maine Department of Public Safety statement.

Two motorists found Alex Whitney, Tuesday night, May 20, 2008, sitting in the middle of Duck Pond Road in Ellsworth, Maine. A can of gasoline and a lighter were found nearby.

Whitney, a student at the University of Maine in Orono, was taken for treatment to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston where he was flown by helicopter overnight. He was receiving treatment for burns on more than 60 percent of his body, before he passed away due to his injuries.

The fire burned more than two acres of woods.

The State Fire Marshal's Office has impounded Whitney's car, which was found nearby at the fire scene, according to McCausland. Investigators plan to examine the vehicle "to try and find out why he did this bizarre act," McCausland said.

Joe Carr, director of university relations at University of Maine, said Wednesday that Whitney was a freshman forestry student who had been staying on Mount Desert Island as part of a UM program. Each spring, first-year forestry students spend two weeks studying and working in Acadia National Park as part of the school's forestry studies, he said.

Counselors went to MDI to offer their services to Whitney's fellow forestry students. "They going to visit them directly," Carr said.

Dr. Robert Dana, UMaine’s dean of students, said Wednesday that Whitney was an Eagle Scout, a big UMaine hockey fan and a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He said Whitney also enjoyed playing guitar.

Whitney was a 2007 graduate of St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol, Connecticut, and was studying forestry.

Whitney and his fellow first-year forestry students had just started a two-week program at Acadia National Park. The voluntary trip sends students into the sprawling park to repair roads and infrastructure and work in the forest, Dana said. "It's on-the-job training as well as a bonding experience" for the freshmen, he said.

Whitney arrived at Acadia sometime over the weekend, Dana said. But at some point, he left and drove to Ellsworth.

"The death of a child and person is always indescribable," Dana said. "Communities like this are always devastated."

Dana described Whitney as a "friendly, quiet young man" who had attained the rank of Eagle Scout.

Whitney's Eagle Scout project involved the restoration of a section of the trail in Unionville's Suburban Park. On Dec. 14, 2004, the Farmington Town Council declared it "Alexander J. Whitney Day" in honor of his efforts.

"As a result of Alexander J. Whitney's work, the experience of the citizens of Farmington who use Suburban Park will be forever enriched and enhanced," the proclamation states.

When discovered on fire, Whitney spoke to the two individuals who found him, indicating his was intentional act.


Anonymous said...

My prayers and thoughts go out to this young man's family. There's so much more to an individual than the little excerpt written on this web page concerning a tragic death. My condolences to this man's many friends and loved ones. May they find peace in this ultimately confusing world by coming together and sharing each other's love at this very trying time.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for this post. The spike in military and veteran suicides is alarming, saddening and heartbreaking for the families and all who oppose these wars. My project "Semper Fi" was partly inspired by these events, though misrepresented by our local press. You can see it at if you have time.

Best to you and your work,