WEST HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — A week ago tonight, a man became engulfed in flames at the West Hollywood Carnaval while celebrating Halloween.
The next day, 51-year-old Gilbert Estrada succumbed to his burn injuries.
Tonight, the man’s family is breaking their silence.
Estrada’s brother, Ricardo, spoke to KCAL9’s Serene Branson about his loss and his grief.
“It’s very hard to take … the way he went. He was only one year older than me,” Ricardo said.
Branson said the family is having trouble coming to terms with Gilbert’s tragic death.
A YouTube video of Gilbert engulfed in flames is only making the mystery deepen. Despite the huge crowd and video rolling, it’s not clear how his costume went up in flames.
Some spectators even watched and looked on — cheering and applauding — thinking he was part of the show.
“They told me he had burns over 50 percent of his body,” Ricardo said. “They had to induce a coma.”
By morning, Gilbert’s heart gave out.
“I am suffering so much from this,” Ricardo said. “We just lost my father this year and we lost another brother a year and a half ago.”
The family shared with Branson a photo of Estrada from the festival. Originally, it was reported he was dressed as a sniper. But he was actually dressed as the Loch Ness monster, complete with twigs, moss and burlap.
Estrada said his brother made the costume and had worn it several times over the years.
Early in the investigation, officials say the fire doesn’t appear to be suspicious and they don’t think Estrada was trying to kill himself — it was just a tragic accident. A homicide investigator told Branson that Estrada might have accidentally set himself on fire while trying to light a cigarette.
Ricardo serves meals to the homeless seven nights a week on Olvera Street, downtown Los Angeles. He reflects on his brother’s equally selfless spirit.
“He was a volunteer for pets, organizations, hospitals … anything with veterans,” Ricardo said. “He was a beautiful man, beautiful man.”
The family has set up a GoFundMe page to try to raise $11,000 for funeral and burial expenses. At this writing, they have raised nearly $2,000. For more information, including how to donate, click here.