Police: Flaming Bottle of Hand Sanitizer Sparked Fatal Fire

March 11, 2020

HARTFORD, Conn. — A Connecticut woman accused of starting an apartment building fire that left a man dead and dozens of residents injured sparked the blaze by throwing a flaming bottle of hand sanitizer at her girlfriend during an argument, police said Monday.

Destiny Waite, 28, was charged with felony murder, arson and assault in connection with the fire in Hartford on early Sunday morning. Her lawyer denied the allegations and accused Waite’s girlfriend of starting the fire.

The blaze at the five-story building was reported at about 1:20 a.m. Firefighters rescued 41 people, and 31 residents were taken to local hospitals, fire officials said. Three firefighters also were injured, but are expected to recover. More than 60 families were displaced, Mayor Luke Bronin said.

Officials identified the person who died as Jerome Kyser, 50. The chief medical examiner’s office determined the cause was smoke inhalation and ruled it a homicide.

Waite was arraigned Monday in Superior Court, where a judge set her bail at $1 million.

Police Lt. Paul Cicero said Waite, during a verbal and physical altercation, “assaulted her friend, her girlfriend rather, by throwing … a hand sanitizer bottle that was lit on fire at her girlfriend, at which point the fire spread throughout the building.”

Waite’s lawyer, Joseph Elder, said Waite hadn’t been in the apartment for several days and believes the girlfriend harmed herself and started the fire.

The city’s Health and Human Services agency opened a temporary shelter and was helping the families find other housing. The American Red Cross said it was helping 54 families, including 69 adults and nine children.

Bronin praised first responders for saving people from the burning building.

“Our firefighters and police officers heroically pulled many people from the building on Charter Oak Place, and there is no doubt they saved many lives,” the mayor said.

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