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6-year-old boy burned by bully with fireball to the face, family says

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 4/27/2022 Timothy Bella
Dominick Krankall, 6, was burned in an attack his family says unfolded when an 8-year-old bully tossed a tennis ball soaked in gasoline and lit on fire at Dominick's face. Police say the investigation is ongoing. © Screenshot via YouTube/WNBC/Screenshot via YouTube/WNBC Dominick Krankall, 6, was burned in an attack his family says unfolded when an 8-year-old bully tossed a tennis ball soaked in gasoline and lit on fire at Dominick's face. Police say the investigation is ongoing.

Dominick Krankall was playing at his Connecticut home when the boy who lived below him called out his name. Moments after 6-year-old Dominick went to go meet the 8-year-old neighbor who had bullied him on Sunday, Krankall’s family said, Dominick shrieked in horror when the 8-year-old allegedly launched a tennis ball at his face that was soaked in gasoline and lit on fire.

“As soon as he walked down the stairs, the bully called his name and lured him over around the corner,” Dominick’s sister, Kayla Deegan, told WNBC in New York City, “and in a matter of seconds he came back around the corner screaming, saying, ‘Mommy, they lit me on fire! They lit me on fire!’”

The attack left Dominick with second- and third-degree burns on his face and legs, and most of the boy’s body is swollen and bandaged.

Authorities in Bridgeport, Conn., noted in a police report how preliminary findings show that “up to four unattended children were seen playing with gasoline and lighting objects on fire.”

“The incident is currently still under investigation as to the exact cause of the burn injuries by the Bridgeport Police, Bridgeport Fire and State Fire Investigation Teams,” police wrote in the report.

No charges have been handed down as of early Wednesday. Scott Appleby, the director of emergency management for Bridgeport, told The Washington Post that no other details were immediately available to be shared to the public. Neither the 8-year-old nor his family have been publicly identified.

Dominick’s family wrote in an online fundraiser that the 8-year-old boy’s mother “thinks he is innocent.” But Maria Rua, Dominick’s mother, told WTNH that her son’s alleged bully “purposefully threw a gasoline-saturated ball that they lit on fire at my son’s face.”

“They threw it at Dominick and left him outside alone to die,” she said.

The 6-year-old is being treated at Bridgeport Hospital and is expected to recover, Rua said to local media. John Cappiello, a hospital spokesman, told The Post that Dominick is in fair condition as of Wednesday morning.

“Fair is better than critical and better than serious, so we’re trying to do our best for him,” Cappiello said. “It’s a terrible thing.”

The 6-year-old’s family say Dominick has been bullied by the 8-year-old for the past year. Deegan alleged to WNBC that the 8-year-old previously sent Dominick to the hospital with a concussion after her younger brother was pushed into a wall and fell to the floor about two months ago.

Dominick was playing at their Louisiana Avenue home in Bridgeport on Sunday afternoon when he was called over by the 8-year-old. Dominick’s family alleged to local media that the 8-year-old neighbor gained access to a shed on the property, which is how he was able to get a hold of gasoline and lighters.

Then, Deegan said to WNBC, the 8-year-old lit the gasoline-soaked tennis ball and “just chucked it right at my brother’s face — and then ran away from him and watched him burn.”

Bridgeport authorities responded to a report of a child burned shortly after 3:45 p.m., according to the police report. Dominick was transported to the burn unit of Bridgeport Hospital, police said.

Burns and fires account for an estimated 3,500 child and adult deaths annually, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The incident has left Dominick’s family devastated and searching for answers. Deegan said her brother could barely eat, sleep or talk. Family members have shared photos of Dominick completely bandaged up, surrounded by stuffed animals and Iron Man and Spider-Man dolls in his hospital bed.

Rua said his whole body is swollen with blisters and that “his face is about twice the size it normally is.”

“You can’t even see his beautiful eyes anymore,” his mother said to WTNH.

A GoFundMe started by Deegan to help pay for Dominick’s hospital bills has raised more than $76,000 as of Wednesday afternoon. Aaron Krankall, Dominick’s father, told WTIC that they were grateful for the community support in the days since Dominick was burned.

“I’m telling Dominick, all these people love you and care about you,” the father said, adding that people have offered to move the family out of the home and away from the alleged bully. “Everyone’s really just helping. The whole community is coming together.”

But the boy’s family is left wondering when Dominick, who they described in the online fundraiser as a happy-go-lucky boy who befriended everyone, will be able to ride his bike, play basketball or go fishing again.

“He’s such a tough little cookie,” Deegan wrote on GoFundMe. “The bravest 6 year old i’ve ever known.”

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