A Forest Park High School student is in serious condition after a bag of fireworks caught fire while he was riding in a car with another student Monday morning, Prince William County Fire and Rescue officials said.
Taylor Irwin, 18, of Montclair, was flown to the Washington Burn Center with burns to 40 percent of his body. Burned areas include his face and respiratory system, which may be life threatening, said Capt. Tim Taylor, Fire and Rescue spokesman.
The car’s driver, Kristi Artenian, 18, of Woodbridge, also was taken to Potomac Hospital, with first and second degree burns to 15 percent of her body. The burns do not appear to be life-threatening. She was later taken from Potomac to the Washington Burn Center, Taylor said.
The incident is under investigation. Fire marshals are trying to determine if Irwin caused the fire by playing with the fireworks in the car.
Artenian told fire marshals that she saw the bag of fireworks, which may be illegal, catch on fire. She did not know if Irwin had lit a firecracker and accidentally dropped it near the bag or if he accidentally dropped a cigarette, Taylor said.
A source close to the situation who asked not to be identified said Irwin flicked a cigarette butt out the window and it flew back into the car and landed on the bag of fireworks that was on Irwin’s lap.
A witness told fire marshals that Irwin throw a firecracker out of the car’s window near Forest Park High School.
Irwin and Artenian were driving in a silver Toyota GT southbound on Dumfries Road near Patti Elementary School around 10:30 a.m. when the fire started.
Artenian saw a cloud of smoke in the car and immediately pulled over, said Olufunke Owolabi, Fire and Rescue spokeswoman, and they both got out of the car.
Fire and Rescue workers flew Irwin to the Washington Burn Center in a helicopter that arrived on scene around 11 a.m.
The car’s interior was burned, especially on the floor. Pairs of charred shoes and Irwin’s burned pants lay outside the car that was parked near Montclair Tabernacle Church of God, where the helicopter landed.
Almost an hour after the incident, smoke was still coming from the passenger’s seat.
The source said Irwin and Artenian, who are both seniors and very popular at the school, skipped school Friday. Artenian brought a note excusing herself at the beginning of school around 7:30 a.m. and then left, while Irwin never showed up.
The two drove to Lake Anna, about 25 miles southwest of Fredericksburg, where Artenian’s father has a condo, to get the fireworks and were later going to meet friends, the source said.
They were heading to one of their homes when the incident happened, the source said.
A message left with Forest Park principal Bill Brown seeking comment Friday afternoon was not returned.
Fire and Rescue officials said most fireworks are illegal in Prince William County and those possessing them are subject to criminal charges.
Taylor, though, did not know if fire marshals planned to charge Irwin or Artenian in this case.