What to Know
- A man was caught on camera spraying gas all over 7-Eleven's pumps on Staten Island, then torching the station
- It happened at the station on Richmond Avenue near the College of Staten Island early Monday
- The man is still at large, police said, but Gerard Lara had internal injuries from the blast and he said he 'could've passed out' or 'died'
The man who was coughing up blood from a “collapsing throat” after an arsonist lit one of Staten Island’s gas stations pumps ablaze says he could’ve passed out and died as a massive fireball engulfed the station.
Gerard Lara spoke exclusively to NBC 4 New York on Tuesday and said he was pumping gas at the Bulls Head 7-Eleven Monday morning when he heard a pop and then saw flames.
“I hear a bang. It sounded like metal-on-metal,” he said. “Maybe 10 seconds later, I see a flame. My immediate reaction was to duck down behind my car.”
It was just before 2 a.m. Monday when surveillance footage from the station, on Richmond Avenue near the College of Staten Island, showed the man apparently absentmindedly filling up a canister. He is then seen glugging gas all over the base of the pumps, lighting up a piece of paper and unleashing a booming fireball.
Feet away from the explosion, Lara said he was on the ground, forced to claw his way to safety. Unable to see through the thick smoke and fire-stopping foam, he makes his way to the inside of the station, where he said he collapsed, coughing up blood.
The arson suspect seen in the video takes off as the station’s extinguishers douse the flames. The man hasn’t been seen since.
Lara says although he suffered internal bleeding and hurt lungs, it could have been much worse.
“I could’ve passed out,” he said. “I could’ve died.”
Anyone with information about the arsonist should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.