Tristan Guffey at a younger age
By Clifton French (email@example.com)
7:41 p.m. EDT, April 22, 2011
An Elkhart teenager has died after suffering severe burns in a fire that happened Thursday evening in the 1200 block of Rice Street.
Tristan Guffey, 15, was air-lifted to a hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The victim had a severe form of autism. According to fire investigators, he was playing with matches and lighter fluid when he caught himself and his home on fire.
Despite the efforts of some strangers who managed to put out the fire that was burning the teen, on Friday he passed away.
"I wish I could have actually got here sooner to help him out. Maybe I could have saved his life," said Drake Newton. "I really don't know him, but I care for him."
Drake Newton and his nephew Derek were driving by, becoming two of the first to help Tristan when he ran out of his house, his entire body covered in flames.
Drake and Derek ripped his burning clothes off, stopping the fire that was burning him.
Now that Drake knows the boy has died, he wishes he could have done more.
"I wish I could have taken that pain myself instead of him going through that."
The tragedy has hit the entire Elkhart neighborhood. People who knew Tristan remember a happy boy who loved Legos and Transformers.
"He was really nice, because he would always say hi to me and we didn't even know each other," said Hannah Duncan.
Duncan and her friend were walking around the neighborhood when they saw the fire, catching the chaos on their phones.
"We saw him and he was on a stretcher…and he was completely black. We saw his mom screaming…"
Now, for those who witnessed the fire, they are still shocked that the young boy is gone.
"I can't even put it in words right now."
Tristan and his guardian, who he called his mother, were the only two who lived in the house. WSBT talked to a friend of the family who told us Tristan's guardian is back from Kalamazoo, but she does not want to speak to the media right now.