May 5, 2011

Student Dies in Early Morning Cook Street Fire

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Updated 2:00 p.m.

Brian Lo ’11 died in a house fire on Cook Street early Friday morning.

The fire, at 107 Cook Street, began around midnight Friday morning and burned uncontrolled for about three hours, according to Deputy Fire Chief Tom Parsons ’82. Six or seven other residents evacuated the building, he said.

“Our hearts and minds go out to the friends and families of all of the residents of the house,” Vice President for Student and Academic Service Susan Murphy ’73 said in an email sent to the Cornell community.

Lo appears to have been trying to escape the building, Parsons said.

“This is a terrible tragedy, underscored because this is normally a celebratory day,” said Alternate Acting Mayor Eric Rosario, referring to Friday’s Slope Day celebration. Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson was out of town Friday.

The fire was accidental, and no criminal charges are expected, Parsons said.

“The fire appears to have started on the stove by what is believed to be unattended cooking,” a City of Ithaca press release stated.

The building, which was destroyed by the fire, housed 13 Cornell students in eight apartments. Six or seven students escaped the fire, and the remainder of the residents were not in the building at the time, Parsons said.

The house had a fire alarm system that was last inspected in January. The fire department is investigating whether the system worked correctly.

Lo was a student in the School of Hotel Administration. An autopsy will be conducted on Saturday, according to the Ithaca Police Department.

Firefighters arrived at the scene within two minutes of being dispatched, but it appears the fire was burning for several minutes before the fire department was notified, Parsons said.

Flames were already extending to the second floor shortly after firefighters arrived, he said.

“There’s no doubt that this fire had burned several minutes before anyone alerted the fire department,” he said.

Firefighters battled the fire inside the building for more than an hour and a half. They pulled out after the fire reached the house’s attic.

Officials reported that a second student was missing early Friday morning, but that student was found unharmed, Parsons said. The student had been listed as an occupant of the house but had actually moved out.

Smoke covered much of Collegetown early Friday morning, and dozens of students gathered to watch the blaze.

A moment of silence for the victim will be observed by The Cool Kids, Slope Day’s opening act, at 1:30 p.m., according to Blaine Friedlander, of Cornell’s press relations office.

Students who were affected by the fire should meet in Anabel Taylor Hall at noon on Friday, staff from the Dean of Students office said. The meeting will determine the needs of the affected students.

Check for updates throughout the day.

Original Author: Michael Linhorst