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Electrical problem blamed in fatal fire

March 29, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, PA. - An Antrim Township, Pa., man died Sunday morning in a fire caused by an electrical malfunction, Pennsylvania State Police said.

Matthew T. Morris, 22, of 6824 Guitner Road, was pronounced dead at the scene by Franklin County Coroner Jeff Conner at approximately 7:50 a.m.

The fire at 6824 Guitner Road was reported about 6:33 a.m.

An investigation of the fire determined the blaze started near where a portable electric heater was plugged into a surge protector, police said. The surge protector was plugged into an older-style, two-pronged floor outlet. Police said an electrical failure occurred in that area, causing the fire.

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Morris was sleeping in the room where the surge protector was plugged in. Police said he was unable to leave the room.

Morris' mother, Sharon Hill, 52, was sleeping in the home at the time of the fire and was awakened by the smoke alarm, police said. She left the bedroom and saw smoke coming from her son's bedroom.

Her husband, Nicholas Hill Jr., 42, attempted to get the victim out of the room, but was unable to do so because of the large amount of heat and smoke, police said.

Conner said Sunday afternoon that Morris, who was disabled, died from smoke inhalation.

The home is a two-story, older-style farmhouse and received about $20,000 damage to the interior, police said.

Fire companies from Greencastle and Marion, Pa., responded to the fire.

Morris graduated from Franklin Learning Center in Chambersburg in 2003, said Amy Culler, a teacher at the center.

"He was very lovable," she said Sunday evening. "He loved to be hugged, and he liked attention. He was funny, he'd hang on to our shoulders and giggle."

While Morris was not able to speak, "you knew when he was happy," said Culler, who taught Morris for five years in the Multiple Disabilities Support class.

"He enjoyed eating and being outside, just walking around outside," she said.

Learning Center Principal Jane Adams-Delp recalled Morris as "a sweet little boy."

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