The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 6, 2014

Tears flow for 3 boys

Mom weeps while visiting son’s school locker

DANVILLE — Christine Dissinger stood in front of locker E-99 at Danville Middle School, its opened purple door surrounded by hand-written cards, and broke down in tears.

“We’ll miss you,” one pupil’s note read. “I’m sorry, Daniel. I wish I could’ve said goodbye,” read another. “Dan,” a third read, “is an awesome kid.”

It was 11 a.m. Saturday, one day after three of her sons — Daniel, 13; Gavin, 7; and Arthur, 2 — died in a house fire in Rush Township, when Dissinger arrived at Daniel’s school to get a picture of his locker and to see the classrooms in which he sat.

“Here is his water bottle,” Dissinger said as she grabbed it from Daniel’s locker. “There are all his notebooks.”

The middle school offered counseling to pupils, faculty and others on Saturday.

“This whole thing is so sad,” middle school Principal Charles Smargiassi said. “We are coming together as a community and family and we are coping with this the best we can.”

The brothers were killed when their home of just more than a week, on 60 S. Smith Road, became engulfed in flames early Friday morning. Landlord Verna Zimmerman said Friday she heard there may have been lanterns with kerosene hanging in the two-story white farmhouse.

Southside Fire Company Chief Butch Kriner said Saturday it would be up to the state police fire marshal, Kirk Renn, to comment on whether kerosene lanterns were used in the house.

“At this point, that is up to the fire marshal to discover and investigate,” Kriner said.

Renn, who Friday said the cause of the blaze was undetermined and under investigation, could not be reached Saturday.

Dissinger, a mother of six whose husband died in 2010, was notified of the fire at her job at Thompson Mailing Corp., in the Bloomsburg area.

The boys were reported to be sleeping when the fire began at 1:20 a.m. Another brother and sister escaped; their 4½-year-old sister, Angel, was spending the night with friends.

Sister Kristyn, 14, a student at Columbia-Montour Area Vo-Tech, and brother Ryan, 10, a third-grader at Liberty Valley Intermediate School, ran to a neighbor’s home to report the blaze.

Daniel was a sixth-grader at Danville Middle School and Gavin, a first-grader at Danville Primary School.

“These were great kids,” primary school Principal John Bickhart said Saturday during the counseling session.

“We are coming together as a family,” Danville schools Superintendent Cheryl Latorre said. “We have a great team here who are available for the students, parents and community.”

Counseling will also be available tonight to firefighters who responded to the blaze and their supporters, Kriner said, adding that the critical incident stress debriefing might be only the second at his fire company since he joined in 1989.

“Trained specialists will talk to the guys about how they are feeling, where they are at emotionally,” Kriner said.

Ten to 15 of his firefighters were among the 50 volunteers who battled the blaze.

“A lot of the (younger firefighters) have never seen this stuff before,” he said of the triple fatal. “It affects everyone differently. Some of my guys have never seen it. I have some younger guys who are having trouble with this. Whenever kids are involved, it makes it worse. No matter how old you are or how many times you have seen it, this is a hard thing.

“We’re in the business of helping people, and when people hurt, we grieve for the family that is left behind. This is a tough emotional road.”


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