Teen is burned while wrestling in yard

Published Dec. 4, 2001|Updated Sept. 10, 2005

One of the latest trends in teenage entertainment makes use of everything from chains, boards and baseball bats to ladders, chairs and even street signs to mimic the professional wrestling antics teenagers have seen for decades on their television sets.

Since gaining in popularity the past few years, backyard wrestling has become a more common pastime for teens who compete and videotape their matches to stream on the Internet. And hundreds of Web sites are available that feature photos, videos and names of backyard winners.

On Monday, the father of a 16-year-old DeLand boy who was set afire at the end of a videotaped wrestling stunt at a makeshift wrestling ring Thursday urged authorities to charge the parents of the boy who doused his son with alcohol and turned him into what the father called a "human torch."

"I'm very angry, and I'd like to see criminal charges filed," Bryan Bates Sr. said Monday.

Bates' son, 16-year-old Nathan Bates, suffered second- and third-degree burns on his chest when a friend poured rubbing alcohol on his T-shirt and ignited it with a cigarette lighter.

According to Robert DuRant, a North Carolina doctor who recently published a study of the link between watching wrestling and violent behavior, teens resort to such things in the hope that their videotapes will help them be discovered as the next World Wrestling Federation giant.

After Bates was doused with alcohol and ignited, the flames got out of control and one of the boys could be seen swinging a chair against Bates in an apparent attempt to extinguish the flames. The person videotaping then dropped the camera. Nathan Bates was receiving home medical care on Monday.

DuRant said the extreme behavior isn't limited to just body slams and pile drivers. In one videotape he has seen, a teenager scrapes a cheese grater across another's skull. But setting fire to another was not something he had heard of.

DeLand police Chief William Anderson said Monday his department is investigating the incident and he plans to bring the State Attorney's Office into the matter. "Parents need to pay attention to what their kids are doing and stay involved in their lives," Anderson said.