A young woman will “never have the face she was born with” after being set on fire in a “gruesome and unthinkable” attack in a park. Warning: Graphic
A young woman will “never have the face she was born with” after being set on fire in a Philadelphia park last week in a “gruesome and unthinkable” attack captured on video, her family says.
Alyssa Morales, 36, sustained second and third-degree burns over more than half her body and faces months of rehabilitation and skin grafts, according to a fundraiser set up by a family friend.
The attack occurred at about 11.30pm on Thursday, June 16 at Harrowgate Park in Philadelphia.
Emergency services were responding to reports of a rubbish fire in the park when they found Ms Morales with severe burns, 6ABC reported.
She was rushed to Temple University Hospital and is currently in a medically induced coma.
“She was in too much pain to identify herself when she arrived at the hospital, and was listed as a Jane Doe for two days before her family was able to see her,” the fundraising page said.
According to the page, Ms Morales, known as “Bre”, had been struggling with drug addiction and was homeless at the time. In 2020 she was interviewed about her life by a YouTube filmmaker.
“She has tried to get clean several times, but still hasn’t been able to conquer her demons,” the page said. “Even in the darkest days of her addiction, Alyssa would never physically harm anyone but herself.”
Horrific video of the incident circulating on social media shows Ms Morales on the ground on fire as several onlookers approach.
In another clip she is seen badly injured, lying face down on the ground moaning in pain.
One person can be heard on the phone to emergency services. “Somebody set her on fire, she’s got blood, burnt, she’s bleeding a whole lot – please hurry up,” he says.
Several people gathered around describe her attackers as a group of youths.
“It was like kids and s**t,” one man says.
“Yeah, a bunch of kids yo,” a woman agrees.
“That’s weird young bulls**t,” another man says.
Despite initial reports that she was attacked by a group of teens, however, police on Wednesday said the attack was believed to have occurred during a suspected argument.
Witnesses told police that Ms Morales was in the park with an unidentified man when they began arguing with another woman, who then poured flammable liquid on Ms Morales and set her on fire.
“The one girl backs up and extends her arm and one person just ignites,” an unidentified witness told FOX29 Philadelphia. “It was huge.”
Another witness, Noraida Nunez, told the station, “I saw the little — it was like a little spark — and then all the sudden it just went ‘whoosh’ like somebody threw fluid.”
Ms Nunez said she ran to help. “She was shaking and screaming,” she said. “She didn’t want anybody seeing her face anyway because I guess her face was, you know, burnt too.”
Ms Morales’ mother, Leah Ann Morales, confirmed to CBS News it was her daughter in the video.
“I watched the first three seconds when I knew it was her and I couldn’t watch anymore,” she said. “You know it’s your daughter, and you know she’s burned, and then you’re just like, ‘She needs help, can somebody help her?’ And I found out on the internet.”
Leah Ann said her daughter would live but “she’ll have permanent damage”.
“She’s going to have to have a new face,” she said.
“I’m saying it, she’ll never have the face she was born with, and they said that’s the hard part when she can look in the mirror and see a different face looking back at her.”
She said her daughter “never hurt anyone, just herself”.
“She’s just an addict, misguided,” she said. “She went to college and she just fell into that hole, and can’t climb out. I’m sad, I’m broken, I’m angry so angry.”
Police are reviewing surveillance video and trying to track down eyewitnesses. They are asking anyone with information to come forward.
FOX29 reported authorities were also working to find the origin of the video posted online.
“I just want to know who did this,” Leah Ann told CBS News.
“Don’t you want to know who did this? Wouldn’t everybody want to know who did this? Who could possibly do it? Do you want them to do it again? They go home and laugh, ‘Oh, I got away with this?’”