3-year-old burned after father pours gunpowder into fire pit, Eustis police say

Walter Falen, 30, faces 1 child abuse charge, officers say

Walter Falen (Lake County Sheriff's Office)

EUSTIS, Fla. – A 3-year-old boy was burned after his father poured gunpowder into a fire pit, causing it to explode and injure the two, according to the Eustis Police Department.

Officers said they responded to a home on Jackson Street on Dec. 29 to reports of a fire pit exploding in the backyard. When officers arrived, they said they found 30-year-old Walter Falen coming out of the bathroom with a wet towel across his body followed by the child, who was crying and also was covered with a wet towel.

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An arrest affidavit said Falen appeared “to be in shock, pale in the face, and very shaken up with burn injuries.”

Falen told officers he was on “fire” because he tried to light a mortar using a sparkler stick, according to the report. He claimed to have tossed the sparkler into the fire pit, which then exploded, police said. A witness told authorities Falen started the fire to try and toast bagels because he didn’t own a toaster. The man’s son was close to him when the explosion occurred, so the two got in the bathtub to cool off, police were told.

The department said Falen had bandages over his left leg and arm as well as a burn mark on his left cheek. The boy had burn marks covering both legs, arms and a burn mark on his left cheek.

The boy was taken by helicopter to Arnold Palmer Hospital to be treated and was later transported to University of Florida Hospital in Gainesville due to second and third-degree burns, according to police.

As police investigated, officers determined Falen poured gunpowder into the fire pit, which ignited and exploded.

Falen was arrested Thursday and faces one count of child abuse, police said.


About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.