Martinsburg girls who were burned in fire have returned home

Isabella Neel and Kali Basler were initially taken to Johns Hopkins for treatment

December 31, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Two Martinsburg girls who were hospitalized after they were burned in a house fire on Sept. 23 have returned home after undergoing extensive treatment, but the blaze remains under investigation, police said Friday.

Martinsburg Police Detective Cpl. Scott Doyle said they expect to interview the girls soon.

The cause of the fire at 311 Boyd Ave. has not been released by the Martinsburg Fire Department, and Capt. Greg Hoover, who investigated the fire, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Martinsburg North Middle School students Isabella Neel and Kali Basler initially were taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for treatment after the fire, according to fire officials and family members.

Neel was staying the night at Basler's house when the fire was reported just after 1 a.m., according to police and family members.

Neel, the most seriously injured, underwent multiple skin-graft surgeries, but was able to return home Dec. 17 from Shriners Hospitals for Children in Cincinnati, her mother, Kendra Neel, said Friday.

Since the fire, community members have held a vigil at Burke Street School for the girls, and multiple fundraisers were held to benefit the families.

Kendra Neel said Friday in an email that she didn't know when her daughter would be able to return to school because of Isabella's need for more surgery and therapy.

Isabella is scheduled to return to Ohio this week for more treatment, and Kendra Neel said she doesn't know how long her daughter will be in Ohio. Neel expects her daughter will need at least a year or more of rehabilitation.

"She is at an emotional stage right now and coping like any 12-year-old that has scars on her neck, face, legs and arms ..." Neel said. "It's a lot for a young girl to endure, but I'm very proud of my girl. She's very strong."

Neel said Isabella's recovery has helped her better handle what happened, but the situation also has caused a financial strain because she can't return to work because of Isabella's need for care.

At the same time, Neel said she said also is "just feeling blessed" that her daughter still is alive

"The first four weeks were touch and go so just thanking the community for their prayers (thus) far," Neel said.

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