Jason, an award-winning Little Leaguer partial to skateboards and BMX bikes, had tried a daredevil stunt with fire. When one of the fire fighters asked what had happened, a kid on the scene replied, "They were playing Jackass." When asked what that meant, the kid explained, "MTV, man."
The local police gathered that Jason had begun playing with fire several weeks earlier, possibly inspired by something he had seen on Jackass. One sergeant told The Hartford Courant that Jason had held his boot over gasoline burning in the snow; he had also put gasoline on his boot, ignited it, and then plunged his boot into the snow. Not everyone agreed with these reports. The Lind family's lawyer said that Jason had been involved in only one previous episode with fire.
On that January night Jason and several other kids visited his friends the Fords. Around eight-thirty Mrs. Ford, seeing the youngsters cozily curled in front of the TV with their shoes off, and knowing that there were two eighteen-year-olds among the group, felt comfortable leaving them to go to a friend's house for a cup of coffee.
By ten o'clock Jason had changed into some old pants and a couple of shirts and a sweater. He had put on a motorcycle helmet and an old pair of boots and had gone into the back yard with two friends and a plastic cup of gasoline.
Minutes later Jason was on fire. His pants had been saturated with gasoline and ignited. Some of Jason's friends extinguished the fire and took Jason inside, where they put wet towels on his wounds. Emergency personnel arrived and rushed Jason to a hospital, where, according to The Hartford Courant, he apologized from the emergency-room table.
Sometimes if you know more, things get less clear.
Jackass is MTV's second highest rated show, boasting a cumulative viewership of 39 million. Its host, Johnny Knoxville, is a charmingly dissolute thirty-year-old who leads a pack of skateboarding goofball dudes on expeditions of tasteless pranking and inept stunting. A diver plunges proudly from a ladder into a kiddie pool full of elephant poop. Johnny earns an ovation from his buddies by letting himself be sprayed by a scared skunk. The lads applaud and guffaw over the ankles they sprain and the noses they smash by slamming into immovable objects. Shot in a clunky home-video style and featuring plentiful digitally masked nudity, the show revels in all the naughty and risky things your parents warned you against (but that you knew perfectly well you would survive).
In Episode 103, first broadcast last October, Johnny Knoxville decides he wants to be set on fire. We see a stuntman, Kevin McCarthy (identified as a "pyrotechnics professional"), put Johnny into a multi-layer "burn suit," the kind used in movies. Kevin explains various safety precautions and shows Johnny how to signal for help if he should feel at all uncomfortable. When Johnny jokes about the situation, Kevin counters by telling him about the horrible burns that stuntpersons have suffered after making even slight mistakes. He then covers Johnny's face with a fireproof mask, applies fuel with a paintbrush, and ignites Johnny with a flamethrower. Johnny dances around for about ten seconds and then gives the discomfort signal. Two assistants standing by with fire extinguishers instantly step in and put out the fire. Kevin pulls the mask off Johnny's sweaty face. Relieved, Johnny explains that he gave the signal because he couldn't breathe anymore—the fire was taking all his oxygen.