MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD (WJLA) – A highly inebriated man set a fire within the Washington Adventist Hospital emergency room, putting dozens of lives at risk, the Montgomery County Fire Marshal’s Office tells ABC7.
It was 9:15 a.m. on Sunday, May 27. Hospital staff found patient Henry Padilla-Martinez, 20, of an unknown address, wandering the halls of the ER. As an employee attempted to guide Padilla-Martinez back to his room, he noticed the drunken man’s hospital bed was ablaze. Staff ran to grab a fire extinguisher and frantically sprayed down the bed to prevent the fire from spreading further.
Firefighters were called to the hospital. The visible damage included burnt linens, melted plastic framing and discolored flooring. Padilla-Martinez’s room was located directly across from the main nurse’s station.
Authorities note at the time of the fire, there were around 20 staff members and 15 patients in the ER. Fact is, the fire could have killed people – many confined to their hospital beds – had employees not noticed the blaze as quickly as they did.
The fire marshal’s office opted to charge Padilla-Martinez with first-degree malicious burning and reckless endangerment. The 20-year-old had a BIC lighter on his person, which investigators believe he used to set the fire.
Although authorities did not outline a motive in court documents, it is believed alcohol played a role in the poor decision-making. Approximately five hours before the fire, Takoma Park Police found Padilla-Martinez passed out in a parking lot along Riggs Road. Padilla-Martinez’s speech was slurred and he smelled of booze. Police sent the 20-year-old to the hospital for observation.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Padilla-Martinez was born in Honduras and is living in the U.S. illegally. ICE submitted a detainer with Montgomery County authorities shortly after Padilla-Martinez’s arrest.
Padilla-Martinez remains in Montgomery County custody. He is scheduled for a two-day jury trial on October 3, in Montgomery County Circuit Court. He faces up to 10 years in prison, plus deportation.