MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) — A man with a history of violent behavior intentionally crashed a car filled with gasoline containers into a Connecticut hospital emergency room on Thursday and then set himself on fire, authorities said.
The driver, 27-year-old Steven Ellam, of Middletown, was critically burned in the crash and fire at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown. He was flown about 40 miles (64 km) to Bridgeport Hospital, where he was being treated in the burn unit.
Middletown Mayor Dan Drew said the car contained cans of flammable liquid, which were being examined.
“The bomb squads were there. But that was out of an abundance of caution, not because we had any information that anything was wired or connected,” said Drew. “In a situation like this, it’s incumbent on us to make sure every contingency is explored.”
Ellam is well-known to authorities. Court records show he has numerous convictions, including for assault, attempted assault and strangulation. He was sentenced in 2014 to 33 months in prison. Police at the time said he attempted to strangle a woman in June 2013 with plastic bags after telling her she had sinned, had to repent and was going to die.
Police Chief William McKenna said they did not have a motive for Thursday’s actions, but were confident Ellam acted alone.
“I want the public to know that this has been determined to be an isolated incident,” he said. “Middletown is safe.”
About 30 patients and 20 staff members were evacuated from the emergency department after the crash, which happened at the walk-in entrance. The only other injury was a security guard who was treated for smoke inhalation, Drew said.
The front of the car burst into flames and the driver set himself on fire before he got out of the vehicle, police said. Fire, police and bomb crews quickly responded to the scene and firefighters extinguished the blaze.
Authorities evacuated homes in the neighborhood where the driver lives while searching his residence, but there was no immediate indication of a bomb at either location.
Police also evacuated an area around the emergency department, which remained closed Thursday evening. Hospital officials said all patients at the hospital were safe. All appointments and non-emergency surgery scheduled for Thursday and Friday had been canceled as had most visitations.
“This situation, as tragic as it is, as difficult as it is for our community to contend with, had very limited overall damage, in part because of the quick response of hospital staff, police officers and firefighters,” Drew said.