Silence filled the halls of Steubenville High School this week in the wake of a fire that claimed the life of Lee West.
West, 15, was found dead inside his home after a Tuesday evening fire that investigators from the state fire marshal's office believe started in the kitchen of the two-story, wood-frame house at 316 Virginia Ave.
Shane Cartmill, state fire marshal spokesman, said three investigators and a K-9 trained in detecting accelerant were at the house Wednesday. A ruling on the cause of the fire has not been made, but investigators found no evidence of criminal intent, he said.
Photo by Jeremy Kins
Lifelong friends Devin Smith, from left, Malik Richmond and Dante Brown stand with teacher and freshman basketball coach Anthony Pierro at Steubenville High School’s memorial for Lee West, a 15-year-old who lost his life in a house fire Tuesday.
West, a freshman at Steubenville High School, was found in an upstairs bedroom. Cartmill said investigators found two smoke alarms in the home, one upstairs and one in the basement. He said it is unknown if the detectors were in working condition.
Now, a palpable sadness can be felt while walking through the halls of the high school, as students write messages of love, friendship and remembrance beside pictures of West's life on a memorial located in the main hall that reads "A tribute to Lee, gone but never forgotten."
"I've been here 25 years and yesterday (Wednesday) was the quietest and saddest day at Big Red I've ever experienced," said Anthony Pierro, teacher and freshman basketball coach.
"It's hard. I lost a brother," said Malik Richmond, a lifelong friend and fellow ninth-grader.
City fire crews were called around 5:41 p.m. Tuesday and found the home consumed with heavy fire. Firefighters said upon arrival they were told by neighbors that they didn't believe anyone was in the residence, but they later received information that three people might be inside the burning home. Firefighters were only able to account for two.
"I found out that his house was on fire a little after 5:30 p.m. I was just getting home and I got back back in my car and drove straight over. I kept asking myself where he was. Someone told me that he was dead (inside the home) and I just kept asking if they were sure. It felt like I was just waiting for him to come around the corner," said Pierro.
"I found out in the locker room before our freshman basketball game. A teammate said that his house was on fire, so I just ran over and when I got there his dad was outside crying and he thought that Lee was in the house. I tried calling him and he wasn't answering and I knew something was wrong. I just kept calling and calling," said Richmond.
But now Pierro said students of the school have come together and put aside their differences to remember West. He said he is amazed at the strength and unity he is witnessing following the fire.