A man who was doused in gasoline and set on fire at a gas station Christmas night died Friday after being in and out of a coma since then.
Darrell Brackett, 44, walked to the U-Gas Station at 4700 NW 27th Ave. shortly before midnight night while his girlfriend waited in their van. They were returning from dropping off family members after a Christmas gathering when they ran out of gas near Northwest 49th Street and 23rd Avenue.
Brackett made it to the gas station and paid for his gas.
While there, he encountered several drug dealers, according to the Brackett family’s attorney. They asked Brackett if he was interested in purchasing from them, and when he said no, they took offense, the attorney said.
They threw a lit cigarette at cigar on him, which in combination with the gasoline he had just purchased made him go up in flames.
Brackett ran into the street, where a woman passing by directed him to a median where he rolled on the ground in an attempt to put out the flames. “Why did they do this to me?” he asked at the time.
He was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was treated in the burn center until he died Friday.
Although for the first part of his recovery Brackett was unable to communicate, he was doing well enough about three weeks ago that he could nod and use hand movements to speak with his family and Michaels. It was during those conversations they were able to learn better what happened that Christmas night.
Then, after that one week when he could communicate, Brackett took a turn for the worse, fell back into a coma and died.
Brackett’s mother, Bridgett Brackett, said her son would be remembered as “a people person.”
“Everybody loved him,” she said Wednesday. “He had a sweet personality and was just a fun-loving guy. Every time you saw him, he had a nice smile. He was a great child.”
Brackett’s family has filed a lawsuit against Urbieta Oil Inc. and HDEZ Oil Corp., which own and operate the U-Gas Station. Trial is scheduled for Aug. 12.
The family’s attorney, Todd Michaels of the Haggard Law Firm, a Coral Gables firm that specializes in personal injury cases, said the companies’ gas stations in South Florida have operated negligently for too long, without proper security measures in place.
The Haggard Law Firm previously represented the family of Trinard Snell, who was killed in 2009 while working at a Valero gas station in Liberty City. Snell’s family won a $5.7 million lawsuit in that case on Dec. 2 after expressing their concern that the station did not sufficiently protect its employees, according to Miami Herald news partner CBS4.
“There is a staggering amount of crime going on in these premises, and pretty much nothing going on in terms of security,” Michaels said. “Security can’t be something you put on the back burner . . . It’s happening too much that [gas stations] are throwing caution to the wind as far as securing their premises goes. People are being attacked and robbed.”
It is too early in litigation to determine how much the suit will amount to, but because of Brackett’s two months of medical bills, Michaels said the number will likely be high.
“The family just wants to see they achieve some sort of justice for him,” Michaels said.
Ignacio M. Urbieta, an attorney for Urbieta Oil Inc., said safety has always been the company’s top priority.
“The Haggard Law Firm alleged unsubstantiated facts about the incident and made dishonest statements disparaging our personal ethics,” Urbieta wrote in a statement to The Miami Herald. “We vehemently deny their version of events and will address their accusations at the appropriate time and place.”