EAST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Call it a tragic coincidence as his best friends happened to be at the gas station when the victim ran out of his car engulfed in flames.
It happened to be Marissa Lieto’s birthday Saturday. She and her boyfriend were on the way to the casino, but stopped to get gas.
They expected their friend Dan Kelson to meet them a little later. Instead, the unthinkable happened as he pulled into that same East Haven gas station.
On Wednesday night, Lieto and Dan’s mom say the events leading up to this story need to be heard as so many people struggle with loved ones suffering from bipolar disorder.
As the car was on fire outside the gas station, Lieto said she thought she heard her boyfriend say “run,” when he actually was yelling Dan’s name.
Lieto is not only dealing with losing her best friend and roommate, she and her boyfriend witnessed something they feared every single day.
“I don’t want people to look at Dan for this because he has the biggest heart in the world,” said Lieto.
Dan’s mother, Judy Murray, says this scene outside the Hess station was Dan making a statement.
“He talked about six monks in 1968 that set themselves on fire during a war that wasn’t ending there,” said Murray.
Murray says he didn’t want to be saved.
“He was running from them, why, why just let me die,” said Murray.
Marissa witnessed her boyfriend trying to save Dan, who was also on fire.
“He got out of the car, ran around the gas pump and ran towards Dan and Dan got out, and he chased Dan down and he tackled him and started hitting him with clothes. I gave him my jacket to hit him with,” said Lieto.
A police officer also happened to be at the gas station and extinguished the fire on his body. He died at the hospital the next day.
Murray says her heart is broken as she will miss her only child, one who was full of love growing up, and always had tons of friends, even after the age of 13 when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Just week ago, Dan was hospitalized, but released ten days later. She says he even told doctors, family and friends that he was still hearing voices in his head.
“They won’t go away, they won’t go away. And he said they’re telling me to kill myself before I kill other people,” said Murray.
“They’re saying the meds weren’t gonna work for four to six weeks. Well, you keep him in there and you make sure those meds are okay,” said Lieto.
Murray says for the last two years he was always upset saying he couldn’t deal with society and was heartbroken by events like the tragedy at Sandy Hook. She says if only doctors listened and the mental health system changed, her son may have had a chance.
“I don’t ever want to see another mother go through what I have,” said Murray.
Murray and Lieto have formed an organization called D.A. N., which stands for Do Not Accept No, that brings awareness to the breakdown of the mental healthcare system. To reach out to Murray, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.