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'We don't value life enough'

Teenagers killed in fire remembered as fun-loving

Teenagers killed in fire remembered as fun-loving

December 13, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

KEEDYSVILLE

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Max Hope picked through a box of cookies Monday, "numb" over the loss of three close friends in a fire at his home Sunday.

Hope, 17, his father Maxwell B. Hope Jr., 54, and a 15-year-old boy escaped the early-morning blaze at 22 Mount Hebron Road. Brian Daigle, 18, Jon Barnes, 17, and Mike Abell, 17, died in the fire that caused about $100,000 in damage to the 19th-century stone house.

Maryland Deputy State Fire Marshal Ed Ernst said the fire started in a second-story room in which the teenagers slept. Ernst said Monday the cause of the fire was still under investigation, but it appeared to be accidental.

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A group of Boonsboro High School seniors who were excused early from school Monday stood with Hope in the snow. He picked through a box of cookies and leaned against a Volkswagen Beetle, one in a colorful row of the older-model cars that rested on a bank, down a snowy path from the charred remains of his house.

"We've all come to the conclusion that we don't value life enough," Max said, wearing clothes his friends had given him.

The friends stood nearby, some with hands in their pockets as they talked. Others kicked at chunks of snow.

Barnes, Abell and Daigle were popular, fun-loving teenagers with an interest in skateboarding and "older music," such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Doors, their friends said.

The teens standing with Hope on Monday said they have plans to get "B.A.D.," the first initials of their deceased friends' last names, tattooed on their bodies. Mike Minnichbach, 17, showed a drawing he made on his arm of what the tattoo might look like.

Daigle, a 2005 Boonsboro High School graduate, was attending Frostburg State University with plans to major in art and photography, his stepfather, Ron Little, said Monday. Daigle would have turned 19 on Dec. 29, Little said.

Hope said he had been friends with Daigle, who had a tattoo of George Harrison on his shoulder, since middle school. When Daigle left for college, he came "back about every weekend."

Daigle's mother, Kara Little, said her son had a great eye for art. He could draw people in a second and could look at a landscape and see a great photograph, she said.

Little had plans to go Christmas shopping this weekend. Holding back tears, she said that her son wanted a camera so he could learn to develop his own pictures.

Kara Little said she heard from parents and students all day about how much the three teens will be missed.

"You never know as a parent how popular your kids are," Ron Little said.

Boonsboro High School Principal Martin Green said the school's halls were very quiet Monday. A Washington County Public Schools crisis team of school counselors, nurses and a psychologist met with students, some individually and some in groups, to talk about their losses.

Green said some students sought help themselves. Others were asked to see counselors based on teachers' knowledge of their relationships with the boys, he said.

Aside from The Beatles, the youths also loved skateboarding.

In the 2005 Boonsboro High School yearbook, Barnes and Abell both said their favorite professional skater was Mark Appleyard.

Abell was quoted as saying, "I love skating. It's so fun and it's a good outlet."

He was quoted in the yearbook saying that he enjoyed skating at Hagerstown Community College in the summer.

Tommy Jefferies, 17, said Barnes "never stopped smiling. He was the happiest kid in our school."

The group said whenever Barnes was in a car that stopped in a parking lot, he would tell them to "pop the trunk" so he could get his board and skate.

Max Hope said he'll miss seeing Barnes "working his corner," a spot inside Boonsboro High School where his friends joked he stood and "all the girls would come up to him."

Abell "loved art," friends said. Max Hope said he thought Abell was planning to attend Frostburg State University with Daigle.

Max Hope said the three boys were hanging out at his house and "just fell asleep" Saturday night.

He said he smelled the smoke, saw the fire and - on instinct - ran out of the house. When his father and his friend realized the others didn't escape, they tried "several times" to go back into the room and get them, but with the smoke and flames, "we couldn't even see or breathe. We kept falling down."

"The house is black," he said. "... The fire was horrible."

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