POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A memorial service was held Wednesday at Marist College for three students who died in an off campus house fire last Saturday.
Kerry Fitzsimons from Commack and Eva Block from Woodbridge, Conn., both attended Marist. Kevin Johnson of New Canaan, Conn., was a former Marist student. They were all 21 years old.
For a college of 4,000 undergrads, the mourners lined up to file into the gymnasium in remarkable numbers.
“As you can see the line to get in here is just so long, everybody is touched by this tragedy,” senior Michael Prada told CBS 2’s Lou Young.
According to the school’s website, Block was a senior fashion design student who well liked by her classmates and teachers and called her “a young designer with tremendous potential.”
Fitzsimons was a senior biomedical science major with a minor in chemistry and worked as a laboratory assistant for Christopher Bowser on environmental projects along the Hudson River.
“When I think of Kerry I think about her knee-deep in a river, with a smile on her face and a fish in her hands. That’s what I think about when I think of Kerry,” Bowser said.
The school said Johnson went to Marist’s Summer Business Institute when he was in high school before being enrolled in the college from 2008 to 2010.
A philosophy instructor remembered Johnson, who grew from a skateboard riding teen into a young man at the Poughkeepsie campus. Their last conversation was about a life just beginning.
“Hey Kevin hangin loose? Thumbs up, big smile thumbs up. Hey Kevin, you got a girl friend yet? Thumbs up, bigger smile!” Dr. Gregory Sand said.
The three deaths have hit hard at Marist. Students wearing red ribbons gathered for Wednesday’s memorial service for a chance to come together as a community and mourn.
“We saw the fire that night and didn’t even know it was a house fire, so when we woke up the next morning and started hearing more and more about it, we were shocked,” Marist student Michael Budda told CBS 2’s Young.
Student Jennifer Nelson said she was in the same program as Eva Block.
“She was the smartest, most beautiful, talented fashion designer we had here and it’s really upsetting,” said Nelson. “But to see this kind of crowd for these three students is incredible.”
There were seven people asleep in the off campus house when the fire broke out around 1:30 Saturday morning.
Officials believe all three died of smoke inhalation. Police said one victim was found on the second floor of the house, one was downstairs and the third was under “considerable collapsed debris.”
Four others in the house managed to escape without serious injuries.
Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire. On Tuesday, authorities said they were looking at the design of the nearly century-old home where the students were living to see if it contributed to the speed at which the fire spread.
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