Man set on fire in church dies from injuries

February 26, 2011 1:13:54 PM PST
An 89-year-old man who set himself on fire inside a Hicksville church on Thursday, has died.

Two priests had come to the aide of the man Thursday morning.

Neighbors said 89-year-old Vito Badalamente is a deeply religious man.

And Thursday morning, he was the first to arrive at the church, just after they opened the doors.

And as he lit a memorial candle in the empty sanctuary, he somehow lit his clothing on fire and was helpless to stop it from spreading.

Father Henry Reid heard a smoke alarm and found a growing fireball near the altar. He used a fire extinguisher to put the flames out.

"I'm certainly very proud of Father Henry that he reacted as quickly as he did. First thing in the morning your mind isn't thinking very clearly and I think he reacted very well," said Father Gerard Gentleman.

After inspecting Badalamente's charred shirt and the sanctuary police quickly closed the case, ruling it an awful accident.

The elderly man who suffered burns on over 60 percent of his body died early Saturday.

The church community is trying to come to grips with the freak fire consuming a man who just wanted to pray.

"He's one of ours. He's one of our parishioners; he's one of our people. And it's one of the most horrible things to think that anything would happen to any of them," said Father Reid.