Driver may face arson, fraud charges for vehicle fire

Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — A man who told fire investigators that he set his vehicle ablaze in hopes of collecting insurance money may face criminal charges.

Fire Marshal John Hager said a 38-year-old man was questioned Jan. 3 about the incident of Nov. 11. About 4 a.m. the Hamtramck man’s Dodge Durango caught fire on Telegraph; the driver jumped from the vehicle which then crashed into the barrier beneath the Ecorse Road bridge.

“It was brought to our attention by a private investigator who had reason to believe it was fraud,” Hager said. “He was brought in for questioning and during the interview confessed to setting the fire.”

The man suffered minor burns and injuries. At the time the accident was believed to have been caused by a fire in the engine compartment or dashboard electronics.

Hager said the man poured gasoline on the front floor boards and ignited it while driving. Driving at a slow rate of speed he jumped from the vehicle before it struck the cement pillars.

Hager said the man was lucky to escape with relatively minor injuries, and that no one else was hurt.

“He didn’t expect it to flash like that from the vapors,” Hager said.

Investigators found traces of gasoline on the floor of the vehicle, and the cause of the fire remained in doubt.

Hager said that fire investigators completed their report. Police Chief Mary Sclabassi said that a detective is working on the case and still investigating prior to any requests for warrants are submitted to the county prosecutor.

Arson is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Providing a false report to an insurance company is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

(James Mitchell can be reached at