Tenn. boy, 12, doused with cologne, set on fire at sleepover

James Whalen
Boy doused with cologne, set on fire at sleepover
James Whalen

(CBS/WTVF) LAWRENCEBURG, Tenn. - James Whalen went to his friend's house Saturday night thinking he would have a fun time. But the 12-year-old left that house with severe burns on several areas of his body.

"I got a call at 2:12 a.m. telling me there was a minor incident," Whalen's mother Trudy Smith told CBS affiliate WTVF.

When the mother learned her son had been burned, she rushed to the friend's house to pick him up and take him home. But when she arrived at the home she could clearly see her son was severely burned.

"He has third degree burns on his face and through his neck area," Smith explained.

The boy also has serious burns on his shoulder, chest and hand.

Whalen said he went to bed in his friend's room late Saturday night.

"The next thing I knew I smelt cologne all over me, and the next thing I knew, I felt fire," Whalen said.

The boy thinks his friend doused him in cologne and then set his shirt of fire. When he realized his shirt was burning, he tried putting out the flames and fell down a flight of stairs and landed at the feet of several adults, setting the carpet on fire,  WTVF reported.

"They grabbed whole lots of water throwing it on the carpet. Then all they could find for me was Dr. Pepper, thrown on me," the boy said.

Smith rushed her son to a nearby hospital where doctors treated his severe burns. They determined the burns were not bad enough to transfer the boy to the burn unit at Vanderbilt University Hospital.

Lawrenceburg police and the Department of Children's Services are investigating what happened at this sleepover. After an interview with WTVF Tuesday night, Smith was surprised to find she could be at fault.

"They're looking into a lack of supervision charges against me, for allowing my child to spend the night at a friend's house," Smith said.

That investigation is still in the very early stages. As of Tuesday night, the case worker had not interviewed the mother of the boy accused of setting Whalen's shirt on fire.

The 7th grader said he has no idea why his friend would want to burn him.