‘All I saw was fire’: Arson spree still ‘surreal’ to victim
Moments before a man doused the hood of her SUV in gas and lit it on fire, Jessica Venne thought: “Don’t you dare.”
He did dare, setting fire to not just Venne’s vehicle, but 12 others in the Whyte Avenue area last Friday night.
“He looked like he was a little pleased with himself. I don’t know if he had the attitude ‘I just want to watch the world burn,’ or what…” she recalled.
Panicked by the flames that mostly blocked her vision, Venne’s only instinct was to effectively blow the flame out by speeding around the corner. It worked well enough that she was able to pull into the lot of a nearby store, grab a jug of water she had in the back, and put out the rest of the flames.
“Then I walked into Burlington Tobacconist and fell to my knees crying because I was just in shock.”
The experience is a surreal one. The arson spree, eventually brought to an end when a man in a Hawaiian shirt conducted a citizen’s arrest, was recorded by multiple bystanders and shared repeatedly online across the country.
“Hawaiian shirt guy is my hero,” Venne laughed.
“I have no idea who he is but I think he’s such a boss for coming. Just the way he took him down.”
Although Hawaiian shirt guy’s identity remains a mystery, the public has credited him with a pivotal role in Friday night’s events.
“I just want to thank Hawaiian shirt guy for being so brave and for taking that young man down before anyone got hurt,” Venne said.
The bystanders who intervened are one of many things she’s thankful for.
“The worst did not happen my engine did not catch on fire. The damage is minimal, I'm just so grateful that no one got hurt.”
A 22-year-old faces a string of charges in relation to the incident.
With files from Nicole Weisberg