Frederick teen killed in townhouse fire

December 25, 2006|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun reporter

A 15-year-old boy died late Saturday in a fire started by his twin brother in the bedroom they shared in a Frederick townhouse, the state fire marshal's office said.

Both of the boys had autism, authorities said.

The victim, Jerrell Williamson, likely died from smoke inhalation in the blaze on Sandpiper Court just before 11:30 p.m., said Deputy State Fire Marshal W. Faron Taylor.

The victim's identical twin brother, Joshua Williamson, their mother, Carolyn Stone, and her boyfriend, Raymond Pullian, escaped without injury, while one Frederick firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation, Taylor said.

The brothers, who spoke infrequently because of their autism, never left each other's side, riding bikes in the neighborhood and climbing up on cars together, their next-door neighbor and former baby sitter, Lisa Petronchak, said yesterday afternoon. They attended special education classes at Ballenger Creek Middle School, running out to the bus every morning together, she said.

"They're just fun boys," Petronchak said. "You had to really know them in order for them to trust you. You have to warm up to them."

Witnesses told investigators that Joshua Williamson often set things on fire, and had ignited his bed with a lighter in the shared second-floor room, Taylor said.

Fifty firefighters had the blaze under control in 30 minutes, Taylor said.

While Joshua Williamson had been fascinated with matches, Petronchak said he had never before caused any harm. Early yesterday at the emergency room, the boy did not seem to understand that his brother had died, Petronchak said.

Firefighters found Jerrell Williamson in a second-floor bathroom, and attempted to revive him with cardiopulmonary resuscitation before he was pronounced dead at Frederick Memorial Hospital. Pullian had tried to rescue Jerrell, Taylor said.

Petronchak said Stone, 45, had lost another son to heart problems several years ago, when he was 21 years old.

Taylor said the fire caused about $75,000 in damage to the townhouse, which had working smoke alarms but was built before 1992, when the state started requiring fire sprinklers in newly constructed townhouses.

"If they had sprinklers, the youth would not have died," Taylor said. "The fire would have been contained to the bed itself."

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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