Seven college students perish in N.C. house fire

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October 30, 2007

2:03 AM

__Univ. of South Carolina in mourning, cause of fire unknown__

A fire claimed the lives of seven college students in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. Sunday.

p. Six of the victims attended the University of South Carolina. While the identity of the last student remains unclear, authorities believe that he attended Clemson University.

p. According to the Associated Press, the beach home owner’s daughter and 12 of her friends were staying at the house for the weekend, enjoying the end of beach season. Six members of the group sustained minor injuries and were released from the hospital after treatment.

p. University of North Carolina Chapel Hill student Stephanie Wilkins was staying in a nearby home with her service fraternity when she saw the flames.

p. “There was no part of the house that was not covered with flames,” University of North Carolina Chapel Hill student Stephanie Wilkins told the AP. “It was just completely covered and engulfed in flames.”

p. A blue tarp erected to block the view of the remaining devastation did not prevent neighbor Bob Alexander from witnessing the removal of victims.

p. “It’s terrible to see somebody’s children come out of that house this way,” he said.

p. Rebecca Wood, President of the Wilkins’s UNC service fraternity that also witnessed the fire shared her sentiments at witnessing the tragedy.

p. “We are thinking about their families and the kids that are going to have to cope with this for the rest of their lives,” she told reporters.

p. According to Mayor Debbie Smith, the house was equipped with smoke detectors. She explained that early investigations indicate that the fire started on a deck on the west side of the house, although investigators have yet to identify a cause. While names are slated to be officially released Monday, many of the victims were believed to be members of the USC chapters of the Delta Delta Delta sorority and the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

p. The USC campus showed signs of grief Monday morning. At the Greek village, a flag with the school’s mascot hung at half-mast, while another house was adorned with black ribbon.

p. Ashley Moore, a senior at USC, offered her sentiments.

p. “I feel really bad for everybody,” she said. “You just give your sympathies to everyone involved and be grateful for the friends you have; keep them close.”

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