Man who set himself on fire in East Manatee dies; suicide note suggests it was protest of China

myoung@bradenton.comJune 24, 2014 

MANATEE -- The 71-year-old Vietnamese man who set himself on fire Friday in an apparent suicide attempt died Monday morning, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

The victim, identified as Thu Hoang, was a resident in the Silver Lake community on 59th Avenue East on Lockwood Ridge Road where the incident occurred, according to public records.

At about 11:15 a.m. Friday, a sheriff's detective drove by a scene where two people were attempting to extinguish Hoang after he poured gasoline on himself and set it on fire.

The act was an apparent protest of a Chinese state-owned oil rig being placed into waters contested by Vietnam in the South China Sea -- an area of growing tension among the two countries where Chinese and Vietnamese fishing vessels often cross paths. Vietnam claims the waters where the rig was placed by China.

Hoang placed two signs written in Vietnamese on the walls of the Silver Lake entrace where the suicide attempt occurred.

A translation of the signs left by Hoang was independently confirmed Monday by the Bradenton Herald by a local native of Vietnam.

According to Randy Warren, Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman, the investigation revealed no clues about Hoang's intentions.

"All we can really tell you is that he was not in good shape from the time he got to the hospital," said Warren. "As far as I know, we were unable to do any interviews."

Hoang was transported to the Tampa General Hospital's Regional Burn Center where he eventually succumbed. Warren said the injuries were severe and no one "expected him to survive."

Warren said MCSO's involvement in the case was not to determine why Hoang set himself on fire and did not comment on the notes left behind.

"I'm not sure we completely understand why," said Warren. "Our job was to do everything we could to save the man's life and unfortunately that didn't happen."

Hospital officials declined to comment Monday, but sheriff's office investigators estimate Hoang suffered severe burns over 80 percent to 90 percent of his body.

Travis Miller and Micha Rhine were the two passersby who first spotted Hoang on fire. They pulled over and tried to use the contents of their cooler to put out the fire while dragging Hoang away from the center of the blaze. Rhine previously told the Herald that Hoang repeatedly screamed he wanted to die during the life-saving efforts.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.

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