Metro Bus Torched by Crazy Man
April 19, 1998 – Madison, WI
A mentally ill homeless man, Salim Amara, boards a Madison Metro bus with a covered pail of gasoline. After riding for a while he walks down the aisle and empties the bucket on Eric Nelson, soaking him and his fiancée Heather Gallagher. Then he smiled, and lit a match.
As the victims fled the bus terrified witnesses yelled “stop, drop and roll!” Residents ran from their houses with blankets and pitchers of water. One man, Dominic Malliet, ran onto the bus to see if anyone else was still on. Police caught Amara a few blocks from the scene, dazed and burned.
There were six people on the bus that day. All were seriously injured, but Nelson the most, with burns on more than 97 percent of his body. He spent a year in the hospital and doctors gave him almost no chance of surviving. The fire seared his face, melting his nose and half of one ear.
Nelson & Gallagher went on to marry. They moved to Texas because the cold weather caused pain due to their scars. The couple was able to have a son even though doctors didn’t think it was possible.
Amara was found not guilty by reason of mental disease. He was committed to a mental institution for the maximum 104 years.
William 'Gary' Isom – Metro Driver
Salim Amara (20)
Eric Nelson (29)
Heather Gallagher (24)