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Prank Turns Into Fatal Fire at College Dormitory

April 13, 1987

DOVER, Del. (AP) _ A smoke bomb that had been set off as a prank in a college dormitory started a fire that killed one student and injured four others, and two students were charged with manslaughter, police said.

″This is an absolute calamity,″ Reed Stewart, Wesley College president, said Sunday. ″This has been an absolute, exquisite agony.″

Firefighters found the body of freshman Christopher L. Sterner, 18, of York, Pa., in his room after the early morning fire Sunday. He died apparently while trying to escape, officials said.

Another student, Joe Morgan, 19, of West Chester, Pa., was listed in critical condition at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Chester, Pa. Three others were treated for cuts, police said.

Police arrested Robert Rumsey, 19, of Baltimore, and Edward H. McGee, 18, of Wyckoff, N.J., on charges including manslaughter and criminal mischief.

McGee was being held at the Delaware Correctional Center in Smyrna on $51,500 bail, while Rumsey was freed on bail.

The college sent its 1,800 students home for Easter break three days early because of the tragedy.

Police said the smoke bomb caused heavy damage to one room and heavy smoke damage to the rest of the building. Nearly 50 firefighters battled the two- alarm blaze for about 90 minutes before declaring it under control.

Update hourly