By MARK YOUNG
MANATEE -- MANATEE — The 71-year-old Vietnamese man who on Friday set himself on fire in an apparent suicide attempt died Monday morning, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
The victim has been identified as Thu Hoang and according to public records was a resident in the Silver Lake community on 59th Avenue East on Lockwood Ridge Road where the incident occurred.
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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 himself on fire.
The act was an apparent protest of a Chinese state-owned oil rig being placed into waters contested by Vietnam as belonging to them in the South China Sea — an area of growing tension among the two countries where Chinese and Vietnamese fishing vessels often cross each other’s path.
Hoang placed two signs written in Vietnamese on the walls of the Silver Lake entrace where the suicide attempt occurred.
A translation regarding the nature of the signs left by Hoang were independently confirmed by the Bradenton Herald on Monday by a local native of Vietnam.
According to Randy Warrant, spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, the investigation did not reveal any 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 Regional Hospital’s Regional Burn Center where he eventually succumbed to his injuries. 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 that Hoang suffered severe burns over 80-90 percent of his body.
Travis Miller and Micha Rhine were the two passerbys 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.