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"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, "My son left the cage door open so his rat,
Vermin, escaped into the garage," He explained. "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 mustache 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.