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Fire marshals are not ready to release cause

December 14, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

KEEDYSVILLE

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Fire marshals are awaiting more information from the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner before announcing the cause of a Sunday fire that killed three teenagers in Keedysville, Deputy State Fire Marshal Joseph G. Zurolo Jr. said Tuesday.

Zurolo said doctors are waiting on a dental record for one of the boys before confirming their identities.

Boonsboro High School seniors Jonathan Barnes, 17, and Michael Abell, 17, and 2005 BHS graduate Brian Daigle, 18, died in the early-morning fire at their friend's home at 22 Mount Hebron Road.

Max Hope, 17, his father Maxwell B. Hope Jr., and a 15-year-old boy escaped the fire. They tried to go back into the house to get the three teens, but they could not get past heavy smoke, Max Hope said Monday.

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"What (doctors) garnish from the autopsy results and what (investigators) have gathered from survivors, you put that all together and we'll find out what happened," said Zurolo, a public information officer for the state fire marshal's office.

Maryland Deputy State Fire Marshal Edward Ernst said Monday that, although a final determination has not been made about its cause, the fire appears to have been accidental.

Ernst said the results of the teens' autopsies probably will answer a lot of questions. He said doctors likely will be able to tell investigators whether the teens were breathing during the fire and fill in other details.

"Until we have the cause of death and until we have some toxicology reports and their identifications, we're not going to speculate on the cause of the fire until we officially make a positive identification," Ernst said.

Zurolo said, "There's information that when the fire was detected, someone tried to fight the fire, but I don't know who that is."

Zurolo said the fire marshal's office will not confirm that information because of questions related to how the teens died.

He said "we probably will never know" what actually happened before the teens died.

"You look and you say, 'How come they couldn't get out?' You're breathing in the hot gases that are putting off the flames and inhaling that soot, (which) is very toxic.

"The smoke incapacitates you and you basically just fall asleep. You're breathing in that smoke, and eventually you succumb. You become very disoriented inside there," Zurolo said.

Zurolo said that initial disorientation in a fire is made worse "if you're not familiar with the place." He said that becoming familiar with a place in which you are visiting or staying is very important.

"You panic and you think you've got to get out of there, but you think, 'How do I get out of here?'" he said.

Zurolo, who has been in the profession for more than 30 years, said the deaths of the teens "is very sad."

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