11 Die in Pennsylvania Cabin Fire
HERNDON, Pa. (AP) _ Two Pennsylvania communities stunned by catastrophe were joined today as officials from a school attended by victims of TWA Flight 800 came to help a town dealing with the deaths of 11 young people in a cabin fire.
The 11 died early Sunday when fire engulfed a hunting cabin on Madisonburg Mountain, 20 miles northeast of State College in central Pennsylvania. Authorities said most of the teens and young adults came from Herndon, about 35 miles away.
The victims’ friends filed quietly into the school this morning for a day of meetings.
Officials of the Montoursville school district arrived early today to help, Line Mountain High School Principal Alexander Menio Jr. said. Montoursville lost 21 people, mostly high school French Club students, in the explosion of Paris-bound TWA 800 over the ocean off New York’s Long Island in July 1996.
``We’re expecting the grieving process to be the order of the day,″ Menio said. ``We’re dealing with a fairly large number of student and faculty ... a whole array of different reactions.″
``It’s going to take an entire village to soothe the soul of our entire community here today.″
The victims apparently all died in bed without trying to escape, state police said. At least four died of smoke inhalation.
The cause of the fire had not been determined. Police Sgt. Steven Byron said there was no evidence of an explosion.
Police said the cabin was engulfed in flames when they arrived at 5:20 a.m. Sunday. A passer-by saw lights in the cabin windows but nothing unusual at 3:10 a.m., authorities said.
``There’s a hole in everyone’s heart,″ the cabin’s co-owner, John E. Wehry, told the Centre Daily Times. ``I guess the good Lord wants the good kids first.″
Wehry said the victims included two of his nieces, 18-year-old Amanda Wehry and Toni Wehry, whose age wasn’t available, and nephew Tyrone Wehry Jr., 23.
Wehry said the cabin had many windows and doors. He said he didn’t understand why the victims didn’t get out.
``Were they asphyxiated? Were they overcome by smoke? Were the kids maybe smoking, and one fell asleep?″ he asked.
The two-story oak and pine cabin sat on a secluded, heavily wooded site off a winding two-lane road. Its crumpled metal roof sat askew on what remained of the cabin’s frame and foundation.
The students, who were on spring break, had arrived at the cabin Friday night and planned to go home Sunday.
Karen Wiest, the mother of two victims, 20-year-old David and 17-year-old Toby, said all 11 were good friends who went to the mountain for a weekend of cards and cooking.
``The community is very strong and the people will pull together,″ she said, her voice quavering. ``They will get through this.″