This small town in northern Ohio was reeling from the deaths of three young adults in an early-morning apartment fire yesterday. Relatives waited for hours in the freezing cold before learning the worst: Zenan T.R. Wample, 18; James L. Gatchell, 20; and Lauren A. Vinson, 19, had died in a second-floor apartment at 7223 Wyandot St.Wyandot County Coroner Joseph Sberna initially ruled that the three died of smoke inhalation.
The fire gutted the brick building in Harpster, a community of about 200 people south of Upper Sandusky and about 60 miles north of Columbus. The first floor is vacant storefronts and the second floor had two apartments, Sheriff Mike Hetzel said.
It appeared that the fire started in the east-side apartment, where the three died, Hetzel said.
The sheriff's office got its first 911 call at 2:56 a.m. from Ryan A. Wollett, 24, of McCutchenville, Ohio, who was a guest in the east-side apartment. Wollett managed to escape. Two minutes later, Jessica Messmer, 32, called from her west-side apartment and said she and her three young children were trying to get out. They made it, Hetzel said.
Jasin C. Wample, 21, who was staying at the east-side apartment, escaped the fire by jumping from a second-story window. He was flown to St. Vincent's Hospital in Toledo with burns.
Todd James, executive director of the American Red Cross of Hancock and Wyandot Counties, said food, clothing and shelter were provided for those who made it out but lost all of their belongings. He said counseling will be available to the victims' relatives as well as the firefighters and deputies.
"We're such a small town, everyone is going to be affected by a tragedy like this," James said.
The building is across the street from the Pitt Township Volunteer Fire Department. Firefighters arrived at the station within minutes, but by then flames from the fast-moving fire were shooting out of the windows.
There are no fire hydrants nearby, but neighboring fire departments responded with water tankers.
Written by The Columbus Dispatch
Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix