Police: Beach house blaze may have started on deck
By Estes Thompson
Associated Press Writer
OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. — For the group of college buddies spending a late-season weekend at a friend’s beach house, the deck overlooking a canal was the center of their good times.
It was where they talked, listened to music and danced late into the night. But investigators fear the deck just two blocks from the beach may also have been the starting point of a fast-moving fire that killed seven people, including a group of high school friends who went off to college together.
“It sounded like they were having a good time. Unfortunately, the fire didn’t show any mercy,” said Terry Walden, whose 19-year-old daughter, Allison, died in the blaze. “They probably never woke up.”
The storm of fire and smoke — so daunting that firefighters radioed for backup before they even arrived at the scene — enveloped the home early Sunday, killing six students from the University of South Carolina and one from Clemson University. Six other South Carolina students in the house survived.
Classes went on as scheduled Monday at South Carolina’s Columbia campus, but grief counselors were available for the 27,000 students. Clemson also offered counseling.
Anna Lee Rhea said her brother, William, was among the dead — a devastating blow to their older brother, Andrew, who made it out of the house alive. “Everybody loved him. Everybody really misses him,” she said in a brief telephone interview from the family’s home in Florence, S.C. “You couldn’t help but love him.”
Walden said his daughter picked USC for its warm weather and vibrant Greek life. Officials have said many of the dead were members of the Delta Delta Delta sorority and the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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