Performer catches fire during pep rally in Delray Beach

Botched stunt takes place in front of students at Atlantic Community High School

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Eight people were hospitalized Thursday morning in a botched performance during a pep rally at a South Florida high school.

The incident happened during a pep rally in the gymnasium at Atlantic Community High School.

Delray Beach Fire Rescue said 20 people were treated at the scene. Eight of them -- one adult and seven students -- were taken to an area hospital.

The students were being treated for respiratory difficulty, but the adult was listed in serious condition. He was identified as Ricardo Charles.

Local 10 News reporter Terrell Forney said a Pembroke Pines-based performance group called Inferno's Challenge was taking part in the pep rally when one of the performers, who is also the owner, accidentally lit himself on fire during a stunt.

"He was not only blowing it out, but he was also putting it on his head. He was putting it in his mouth," student Alex Yarnall said. "He was -- he was just trying to, like, test the limits of the fire."

Yarnall said he thought it was an act at first, but then people started screaming. He said the man was rolling around on the gym floor trying to take off his clothes.

"That's when everybody started freaking out a little bit," Yarnall said.

Charles' right-hand man told Forney this is the first time something like this has happened in the company's 20-year history. Duane Kidd said they light oil, which evaporates as it burns, but that it may have spilled out before the fire.

"Maybe a little spritz came out. I don't know," Kidd said. "He went to tap it out and it re-ignited and that's where it came from."

Delray Beach Fire Rescue said some students complained of respiratory difficulty after a fire extinguisher was used to put out the flames.

School remained in session as scheduled.

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