Vigil held at Martinsburg school for young burn victims

Best friends in critical condition at Johns Hopkins following Friday house fire

September 28, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • A stuffed bunny and yellow ribbons were tied to a chain link fence outside Burke Street School in Martinsburg, W.Va. Family, friends and fellow students of two girls - ages 12 and 13 - gathered for a vigil Wednesday night to pray for and raise money to help the girls, who were reportedly badly burned last week. They are being treated for their injuries at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
By Matthew Umstead, Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — About 200 people gathered Wednesday evening at Burke Street School to take part in a vigil for two Martinsburg North Middle School girls who were burned Friday in a house fire.

Best friends, Isabella Neel, 12, and Kali Basler, 13, are in critical condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, according to family members.

Neel's aunt, Karen Hess-Laisure, said her niece was undergoing surgery for burns to her face at the time of the vigil, which began about 6 p.m. in the school playground.

David Shiflett, Basler's stepfather, said Kali was undergoing a second operation for burns to her feet after having an initial procedure on her face.

Isabella was staying the night at Kali's house at 311 Boyd Ave., when the fire was reported just after 1 a.m., according to family members and fire officials.

Damage to the home was not extensive, but family members of Isabella said she had burns on 45 percent of her body.

The fire remains under investigation, according to Martinsburg Fire Department Capt. Greg Hoover, who is investigating the blaze.

Hoover said investigators are waiting to speak to the girls about the fire and the department is hopeful they will recover.

After Destiny Baptist Church Rev. Michael V. Norris led the crowd in prayer, those gathered were invited by organizers to sing verses of "'Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus" and "Amazing Grace."

Pieces of yellow ribbons handed out among the crowd were tied to the chain link fence along the school property on North Raleigh Street and people were invited to write messages to the girls on large white paper board.

The message by Ronald Crider, a friend of Isabella's, was simple enough.

"I said "get better," the 13-year-old said.

Ronald and friend DeAndre Pinkney, 12, said they went to Burke Street School with Isabella before middle school and were longtime friends.

Luz Coindet, 12, said she already wrote a letter to "Izzy," telling her friend that she misses her and offered to help if she needs anything.   

Coindet, along with friends Jaylyn Copeland and Pria Gonzalez, said Isabella always cheers up her friends and is well liked.

At the vigil, which was organized by staff of Burke Street School, officials announced that the Isabella Neel and Kali Basler Fund had been set up at the Martinsburg office of the Bank of Charles Town to help the families.  

Anyone with information on the fire may call the Martinsburg Police Department at 304-264-2100.

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