The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

June 2, 2012

Williamsfield fire claims life

Mother believes victim is her 21-year-old son Jesse Hodge

WILLIAMSFIELD TOWNSHIP —  An early-morning fire at 7163 Beaver Road, near the state line, claimed the life of an adult.

Ashtabula County Coroner’s Investigator Rich Mongell said the identity of the victim will not be known until DNA tests are complete, in about a week. Peggy Sue Hodge, of Greenville, Pa., said the victim was her 21-year-old son, Jesse, who lives with her but was staying the night at the Beaver Road house, owned by his twin brother, Justin.

Nicole Meehan, Justin’s girlfriend, said she and Justin were sleeping in a room in the one-story frame house when the fire was discovered shortly before 5 a.m. Jesse and Nicole’s sister, Amanda, were in a room above the two-bay garage attached to the house.

Nicole said she and Justin were awakened by Amanda running down the stairs from the room above the garage. Nicole said she and Justin were able to escape through the front door of the house, but Justin insisted upon going back into the burning garage to find Amanda, Jesse and his pit bull, Vegas. Nicole went to a neighbor’s house to call for help.

Justin located Amanda in the garage. Nicole said Amanda probably went to the garage because it would have been the most direct route to exit from where she was at.

“She was laying right in front of the garage door when Justin found her,” Nicole said. “She was coherent, but he had to pull her out.”

The family said that Amanda received burns to her body and was transported by a medical helicopter to Metro Health Center in Cleveland.

“(Justin) went back in and tried to find Jesse, but he couldn’t find him,” Nicole said. She said Justin received burns but refused to be transported for treatment.

A body was discovered in the burned-out garage section of the building and was sent for autopsy in Cuyahoga County, Mongell said. A DNA sample was taken from Justin to assist in the identification.

Rob Vickery, assistant fire chief for the Andover Volunteer Fire Department, said his department was first on the scene, at about 5:30 a.m. Aid was called in from the Wayne Township Volunteer Fire Department and the following Pennsylvania departments: North Shenango, Jamestown, Conneaut Lake and Summit Township. He estimated that up to 50 firefighters were on the scene at one time.

Vickery said they had to use a water shuttle to fight the fire. The garage portion of the building had already collapsed by the time the firefighters arrived.

The State Fire Marshal’s office sent investigators to the scene. A spokesman for the office said a cause has not been determined.

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