Video: Hero stops man trying to set himself on fire in front of schoolchildren
A teenager has been hailed a hero after he stopped a man turning himself into a human fireball and setting a group of children ablaze outside Belfast City Hall.
Police fired a stun gun at the man in his 30s who had lit a fire on the pavement and then doused himself in white spirit in front of rush-hour commuters.
As the flames rose, he also flung the flammable liquid at people around him, hitting schoolboys and girls who were filming the incident on their mobile phones.
Some of them, not realising the danger, appeared to think they were watching a magic act.
After lighting the fire with paper, the man covered himself with the liquid and shouted: "F*** the system."
Smiling and waving his arms about, he then walked towards the flames – only to be pushed to the ground by brave 18-year-old Paul Russell from Belfast.
The man, wearing a blue sweater, tried to get up again, but slid and was held down.
Talking shortly after the incident to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Russell – who had been watching events and chose his moment carefully – said that he acted on instinct when he realised what the man was about to do.
"He came from nowhere and started setting paper on fire. At the start we thought he was going to do a trick with fire and even when he poured the liquid over himself it seemed too weird to be true," he said.
"When we tried to talk to him he poured some of the liquid over myself and a young girl and started screaming and swearing.
"I don't know if I punched him or pushed him, I just wanted to get him away from the fire."
A number of medical emergency vehicles attended the scene shortly before 6pm after being alerted by members of the public.
An ambulance man who attended the scene said the teenager had saved lives with his actions. Eyewitness Cherelle Duffin (15), who was doused in flammable liquid, said that police were forced to Taser the man when he resisted arrest and spat in an officer's face.
Police last night confirmed that they had detained the man under the Mental Health Act.
Dianna Montgomery-Shiels (19) saw the commotion unfold. "It's just something you don't expect to see and all I keep thinking is that it's as well that boy did what he did; this is a very busy area."