Man severely burned in early morning car fire - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Man severely burned in early morning car fire

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CHATTANOOGA, (WRCB)  --  An early morning car fire sends a man to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Georgia.   

29-year-old Mario Castro Poma received severe burns to nearly half of his body.  Investigators believe the fire began accidentally.

The charred car on Clio Avenue speaks for itself Saturday morning as police and fire officials investigate.

"I saw the fire trucks and the police cars respond," says resident Herschel Stone. 

Fire fighters arrived around 5:30 a.m. to find a white Chrysler sedan fully engulfed.  They immediately started fighting the flames before realizing someone had been inside the car.

Officials say 29-year-old Mario Castro Poma fell asleep in his running vehicle, something family members say he has a habit of doing. 

Fire investigators believe the hot catalytic converter might have ignited the grass underneath the vehicle.  Poma managed to get out of the burning car on his own.  The victim wandered across the street to a church building before first responders arrived.

"The man who was burned was my tenant and friend," says DeHart Hubbard.

Hubbard owns the home where Poma resides on Clio Avenue.  The landlord says Poma and his family moved in a year ago, and have been good tenants.

"The man paid like clockwork," Hubbard says.  "He did his part in trying to take care of the place."

Poma was initially taken to Erlanger then airlifted to Georgia.  Hubbard says his friend will be in his prayers tonight. 

"It's sad to see what happened," he says.  Chattanooga Police Major Crimes Division is assisting fire officials with the investigation.  No word yet on Mario Poma's condition.

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