- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 6, 2008

MENOMONIE, Wis. — A smoky house fire near a University of Wisconsin campus killed three students early yesterday, even though neighbors said they heard alarms going off.

Rescuers found two women and a man in second-floor bedrooms near the University of Wisconsin at Stout, and they were pronounced dead at a hospital, authorities said.

The smoke detectors were working, and neighbors called police when they heard the alarms, said Menomonie Police Chief Dennis Beety. Police don’t know why the three victims didn’t wake up and leave.

“There was a bottle of alcohol, and the top was off of it,” Chief Beety said. “But that’s no indication they were drinking at the time.”

The university identified the victims as April C. Englund, 21, of West St. Paul, Minn.; Amanda Jean Rief, 20, of Chaska, Minn.; and Scott A. Hams, 23, of Hayward. All three appeared to have died of smoke inhalation, said authorities, who do not suspect foul play.

“It’s a tragedy that no campus prepares for,” Chancellor Charles Sorensen said. “We’ll grieve in this together.”

Firefighters arrived five minutes after a call was made at about 3:30 a.m. to find smoke coming from the basement, first floor and second floor of the duplex, university spokesman Doug Mell said.

Miss Englund was the only resident of the front unit of the white house in a row of well-kept properties blocks away from campus. The other two victims — Miss Rief and Mr. Hams — were staying over because Miss Englund’s roommates left town, Miss Englund’s father and authorities said.

All three victims were found in separate bedrooms.

University counselors were on hand to help students, and the school encouraged students to call their families.

Mr. Hams‘ family has pictures online of him water-skiing, doing stunts with a motocross dirt bike and flying a small airplane. He liked snowboarding, wakeboarding and skateboarding.

“I can’t believe it’s real,” said his father, Allen Hams. “I know there’s a reason. God’s got a plan. He’s such a good kid. He’d do anything for anybody.”

The elder Mr. Hams said he had talked Friday night to his son, who was to graduate in May with a degree in business administration with an emphasis on risk control and had an internship lined up.

Miss Englund, a senior, was majoring in retail merchandising with a minor in business. Bill Englund said his daughter had worked at a women’s clothing store for five years.

“She loved it. She loved fashion, colors, design,” he said. “She studied to do that. She was already promised a job when she graduated next year.”

Miss Reif was a sophomore majoring in business administration. A woman who answered the phone at her home in Chaska declined to comment, asking for privacy.

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