One Year Later, Still No Answers

BRIDGEPORT – It has been a year since three children died in a Bridgeport apartment fire, and the investigation still isn’t complete.

However, for some in the small community, there is no doubt about the impact the fatal blaze has had.

On March 17, 2013 – St. Patrick’s Day – a fire occurred at an apartment building in the 300 block of Main Street in Bridgeport, injuring Caroline Jean Owens and Joshua A. Looby. The blaze killed the couple’s young children, Josh, Ruthann and Aubrey Looby. A year later, officials with the Ohio Fire Marshal’s office said there is still no official cause.

“The case is still open. There are still some documents we are awaiting. The cause is officially undetermined, and we could not rule out any accidental forms of ignition,” said fire marshal’s spokesman Michael Duchesne.

Despite the remaining uncertainty, churches in the Bridgeport area are planning a candlelight vigil for 7:30 p.m. Monday on the sidewalk beside the fire site next to the municipal building in an effort to honor the three young victims.

The apartment building has since been torn down, but David Demarest, pastor of Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, said there likely will never be any closure. However, he said people can still come together and try to heal.

“This event has had a profound effect on the Bridgeport community and we can’t forget it. Every time you drive down Main Street or walk on Main Street, you see the empty lots where the apartment building stood and are reminded of what happened that day,” he said.

On the morning of the fire, Demarest was preparing to minister at church when he noticed smoke billowing into air. He said he knew right away it was bad because he realized there were apartments with people living in them in that area.

“I had some time before the service so I drove over there to see if anyone needed pastoral care. I was there a few minutes and found out the children were still in the building. I stayed there with some family members, until the last child was found. That’s when I left,” Demarest said.

Demarest said he has told the fire victims’ family members about the vigil so they would be aware it was going to happen and attend if they chose to.

“It might be too much for them to come out for it. They know it’s happening and that’s what matters for their sakes,” he said. “We thought the community needed to be together, to hear words of hope and lean on each for support as part of the healing process which will go on for a long time, possibly a lifetime for us. I can’t think of any other event in Bridgeport that was as difficult as this, as awful as this. … I think the day sticks more in people’s minds because it was St. Patrick’s Day morning – a holiday traditionally one of just fun and joy. And so the pain of that morning is all the more profound and in sharp contrast of the joy of that day.”

Demarest said it has been awhile since he has talked to the mother and father.

“I saw the mom in hospital a couple times and the dad at the funeral home and at the funeral itself,” he said.

In case of inclement weather, the vigil will move to the Kirkwood Presbyterian Church next to the Post Office on South Lincoln Avenue, Bridgeport.