Sisters died of smoke inhalation, burns

February 18, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

o Obituaries of Mary Gross and Nicole Gross

HANCOCK -- A medical examiner has determined that the two girls who perished in a Monday night fire at their Hancock home died from smoke inhalation with burns, the Maryland State Fire Marshal said Thursday morning in a news release.

A team of deputy state fire marshals, investigators with the Maryland State Police Homicide Unit and special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the cause of the fire, Deputy State Fire Marshal Joseph Zurolo said in a news release.

Investigators will be returning to the scene Thursday to continue their investigation, Zurolo said.

The fire marshal on Thursday also officially identified the girls as sisters Nicole Gross, 15, and Mary Gross, 12.

The girls' mother, Melissa Lindeman, escaped from the home by breaking a window and jumping out, fire officials have said. Lindeman remains hospitalized, being treated for injuries she suffering while jumping through the first-floor window, the fire marshal said.


At Hancock Middle-Senior High School, which the girls had attended since the start of the school year, the mood remained low-key Wednesday, principal Eric Michael said.

"You still know the shock's there," Michael said. "The students are still feeling a loss, still trying to process a loss."

To help with that process, school officials laid out a banner and encouraged students to write down their thoughts during their lunch period.

"As we went, it turned into more of the students writing, 'We liked you,' or 'We only know you a little bit,' to close friends writing personal messages," Michael said. "I think it seemed to be a way for kids ... to express some feelings."

Classes were held as usual Wednesday, but it was clear the deaths remained fresh in many students' and teachers' minds, Michael said. Many commented about things they missed about the girls, he said.

"Our goal here is to remember them for the fine young ladies that they were, but also allow our students to go through the healing process," Michael said.

The banner will remain out for students to sign today, Michael said. Eventually, the school might give it to the girls' family, he said.

The girls' mother and her boyfriend, Clarence Myers, were hospitalized after the fire, Deputy Chief State Fire Marshal Jason Mowbray said.

Lindeman got out of the house by breaking out a window and suffered cuts on her torso and legs, and Myers suffered smoke inhalation during a failed rescue attempt, the fire marshal's office said.

Investigators determined the fire originated in the basement, Mowbray said.

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