Police: Cigarette sparked fatal Shamokin fire
SHAMOKIN - Tuesday's fire that killed a city teenager and destroyed five homes is believed to have been caused by a discarded cigarette.
Raymond J. Siko II, the city's fire investigator and a police patrolman, cited "discarded smoking materials" in a press release, but police further clarified they found cigarette butts in a trash bag in a second-floor bedroom.
Police did not offer any details about who discarded the cigarette or when.
Melissa Lee "Missy" Pangburn, 13, was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in her third-floor attic bedroom at 5 S. Rock St. at 12:05 p.m. Tuesday.
Siko had previously said the fire, which was first reported at 10:58 a.m., was ruled accidental.
Also Thursday, funeral arrangements were announced for Pangburn. A visitation for family and friends will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Shamokin Area Middle/High School auditorium, 2000 W. State St., Coal Township, and a religious funeral service will begin at 2 p.m. in the auditorium with the Rev. David Butler officiating. The fire victim was a seventh-grade student at Shamokin Area.
Friends and family gathered Thursday evening at 5 S. Rock St. to remember Pangburn. Dozens of mementos were left on the sidewalk still covered in shards of glass and charred pieces of building material - a fresh reminder of Tuesday's tragedy.
Several songs mourning the loss of a loved one were sung between hugs and tears.
Joseph Vecchio, Pangburn's stepfather, was unable to hold back tears while he briefly spoke to the crowd.
"I love all you guys. I love each and every one of you," he said before collapsing to one knee.
After collecting himself, Vecchio told them not to dress up if they attend his late stepdaughter's service Saturday. "Don't dress fancy. Dress as she knew you," he said.
Kathy Klase and other parents are organizing a benefit for Melissa's family from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Club Echo, the underage club that opened in the basement of the American Legion-public library building in Shamokin earlier this year. The event is for youths 11 to 16, and organizers are asking for a minimum $5 donation. All money will be donated to Pangburn's family.
The idea for the benefit came from Melissa's classmates Kaitlyn Merlino, Nicole Bainbridge and Bethany Bordell.
A vigil may also be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at the fire scene, but plans were incomplete as of Thursday.
Also, Victoria Fortune, of Coal Township, has set up an online donation page on gofundme.com for Pangburn's family, which can be found at http://www.gofundme.com/4qw6ck.
Five homes destroyed
School had been canceled the day of the fire because of a pending snowstorm.
Pangburn lived at the home with her mother, Barbara Wiley, 38; Wiley's boyfriend, Joseph Vecchio, 30; Wiley's 16-year-old son, Jonathan Wiley; and Barbara Wiley and Vecchio's 9-month-old daughter, Meadow.
Authorities had reported on the day of the fire that at least one other person in addition to Melissa was home at the time.
The property is owned by Bernie and Jan Nestico, of Kulpmont.
The fire spread from 5 S. Rock St. to the adjoined double at 7 S. Rock St., and also to row homes at 1-3 and 9 S. Rock St., on either side of Pangburn's home. All five homes were destroyed.
Mary Kryzkwa lived at 7 S. Rock St. Her son, Edward J. Kryzkwa, said Thursday that anyone wishing to help his mother can send donations to Mother Cabrini Church, North Shamokin St., Shamokin 17872.
Joan and Mike Muskey resided at 1 S. Rock St., and Joan Muskey also owns 3 S. Rock St.
Keith Tamborelli, of Kulpmont, owns 9 S. Rock St., which was unoccupied.
The displaced residents are living with friends and family, authorities have reported.
Firefighters from nine communities joined Shamokin forces in battling the blaze.