Wednesday, August 11, 2010

West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 12-Year-Old Boy, Frank Marasco, With Autism Killed in West Philly Fire

Frank Morasco, age 12

NBC Philadelphia
Updated 6:10 AM EDT, Mon, Aug 7, 2010

Philadelphia police say a 12-year-old autistic boy was killed in a house fire in West Philadelphia Saturday.

Investigators say the fire broke out shortly before 7 p.m. at a home located at 137 South 55th Street. The young boy was discovered in a room on the second floor of the home, according to investigators.

Firefighters were able to rescue a woman from the second floor roof. The victim was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for treatment.

The fire was placed under control around 7:30 p.m. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries. One of the firefighters fell through the stairway while trying to save the little boy. Both were also transported to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for treatment.

Officials say there were no working fire alarms in the home.

"We saw smoke alarms in the home. Unfortunately the smoke alarm that I found did not have the cover removed before you put it into service," Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.

Four homes suffered damage, according to firefighters.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.

Fatal W. Philly fire sparks 'brownout' policy questions

Philadelphia Daily News 215-854-5218

..."A lot of things went wrong there, but the brownout isn't one of them," Ayers said. "You have to do the right thing for your family, and the key is to have an escape plan."

Neighbors said that a man who lived in the house was trying to get the 12-year-old out of the house but the boy pulled away and ran back in.

Ayers said that families should coach, and create escape plans for, people with mental and physical disabilities.

The boy's body was found on the second floor, fire officials said. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

"It was much, much too late for the boy to be saved," Ayers said.

Neighbors described Frank as a happy child who had moved onto the cozy block with his family last year.

"He was just getting used to us," said Rubye Weaver, 72, whose home also was damaged. "He was a happy young man."

Neighbors said that the boy didn't talk much and he loved playing ball on the porch or on the sidewalk with neighbors and the man who lived with him.

"He would catch the ball and kiss it," said Virginia DeShields, who lived three houses down. "He had a 'Toy Story' doll he would carry all the time. He was a very happy kid."

Fire union leaders said that the maintenance cited by Ayers normally would have been done during the afternoon, and if Engine 57 were not browned out the maintenance could have been completed before the start of the night shift.

"It's a tragedy what happened," said Local 22 trustee Mike Kane...