- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 30, 2005

A house fire in College Park early yesterday morning killed one University of Maryland student and critically injured another.

Prince George’s County fire and rescue crews responded at 4:30 a.m. to the 7500 block of Princeton Avenue, where the front of a 2-story house was engulfed in flames.

Michael Anthony Scrocca, 22, of Somerville, N.J., was found unconscious and not breathing in a second-floor rear bedroom, said fire department spokesman Mark Brady. Mr. Scrocca was taken to the Prince George’s Hospital Center and died a short time later.

A 21-year-old man was taken to a hospital after jumping from a second-floor window. He suffered burns and smoke inhalation and was in critical-but-improving condition, Mr. Brady said.

The Diamondback, the university’s student newspaper, identified the injured student as Stephen Aarons, 21. The newspaper also reported Mr. Aarons landed on a parked car and was taken to Washington Hospital Center’s intensive care unit.

Sixty-five firefighters and paramedics responded after a passing motorist alerted authorities from her cell phone. The cause is under investigation, though some students said there was a party at the home Friday night.

Empty malt liquor bottles and used plastic cups were visible around the yard.

The fire, which took 45 minutes to extinguish, caused about $300,000 in damage.

University President C.D. Mote Jr. said he was “deeply saddened” by the fire and that university officials are providing counseling services, housing, food and clothing for survivors, as well as hotel accommodations for parents.

“On behalf of the university community, I extend deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims of this terrible tragedy,” Mr. Mote said.

The house, about two blocks from Route 1, east of the campus, was rented by the students, officials said. Seven students reportedly lived in the house and at least six were inside during the fire.

By afternoon, a faint odor of smoke still wafted through the block as insurance teams boarded up the charred house. Dark smoke stains spotted the house and melted aluminum siding dangled from exterior walls. A Saturn with New Jersey license plates was parked next to the house, its windows shattered.

Students and passersby watched quietly, contemplating what might have started the fire. Julie Richards, 22, and roommate Jill Mann, 22, said they live in similar conditions and wondered whether faulty wiring was the cause.

“The house we’re in is an old two-story one — just like this one,” said Miss Richards, of Silver Spring, who with Miss Mann and four others rents a house on neighboring Dickinson Avenue. “And I know the wiring in our house is bad, so if that was the cause, it’s pretty scary.”

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