Burning rocks covered in elevated levels of phosphate, tests show
The beach rocks that ignited and seriously injured a San Clemente mother earlier this month were covered with an elevated level of phosphate, Orange County health officials announced Thursday.
But how the chemical got on the rocks, which burst into flames in a pocket of a woman's cargo shorts, remains a mystery.
The woman, identified as Lyn Hiner, told authorities she slipped the rocks into her pocket after her children collected them on the sand at San Onofre State Beach.
The rocks had been sent to a state laboratory for testing, and results released Thursday confirmed elevated traces of the inorganic chemical, an agency spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
On May 12, the 43-year-old Orange County woman visited the northern San Diego County beach with her family, authorities said. Her children collected rocks, including two that were distinctive — one a large, marbled gray stone; the other much smaller and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle green. Both of the beach stones were streaked and flecked with a bright orange substance.
The mother put the rocks in her right pocket and went home. Then they suddenly ignited.
Witnesses reported seeing flames coming from her shorts. She was hospitalized with second- and third-degree burns from her right knee to her right thigh, with second-degree burns on her hands. Her husband also had burns on his hands from trying to help her.
-- Rick Rojas
Photo: Orange County health officials said these rocks, which ignited in the shorts of a San Clemente woman, had elevated phosphate levels, according to results from laboratory testing released Thursday. Credit: Orange County Health Care Agency