Charges: Man used cook-stove before van fire that killed girl, injured another
FRIDLEY, Minn. (FOX 9) - A 70-year-old man faces three felony charges for his role in a van fire that took the life of 6-year-old girl and severely injured another in a Walmart parking lot.
At 7:13 a.m. Tuesday, firefighters were called to the Walmart parking lot for a minivan that started on fire while the driver was shopping inside.
The van became engulfed, and the fire spread to the two vehicles on either side. Two girls - ages 6 and 9 - were in one of the vehicles and were unable to escape. The two were rescued by responders and hospitalized for burns and smoke inhalation.
The owner of the van, 70-year-old Roberto Hipolito, now faces three felony charges including second-degree manslaughter.
Investigators say the fire started from a cook-stove Hipolito used to make breakfast.
In an interview with investigators, Hipolito said he had not used the cookstove for several days, but later stated he had used it the previous night.
Surveillance video of the parking lot showed Hipolito using the stove on the pavement outside the vehicle that morning.The video then shows him putting the stove back into the van before it had time to cool and moving the van to another spot.
He then entered the store and about two minutes later, Hipolito's wife, still in the car, was told by a passerby that the vehicle was on fire.
She jumped out and worked to remove belongings, but the fire grew stronger after the rear door was opened.
Both of the two vehicles on each side of the van also caught on fire, including the one from which the children were recovered.
Hipolito told investigators he had tossed pillows and blankets near the stove before moving parking spots.
The 6-year-old died as a result of her injuries. The 9-year-old girl remains in critical condition.