Fire Claims Three at Ole Miss

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Three students were killed in an early morning fire that swept through a fraternity house on the campus of the University of Mississippi.

University spokesman Jeff Alford identified two of the victims as Jordan Williams, 20, of Atlanta, and William Townsend, 19, of
Clarksdale, Miss., both sophomores majoring in accounting.

Alford said the body of the third victim has not been identified. However, he said the third missing student from the fire had been identified as Howard Stone, 19, of Martinsville, Va., a sophomore political science major.

Alford, assistant vice chancellor of student relations, said authorities believed the fire started in the living area. The fire broke out before dawn, and firefighters needed about two hours to bring it under control, chapter adviser Al Bell said.

Hours later, smoke billowed out of where the roof had been, and
much of the upper floor was in ruins.

The ATO house had undergone a routine fire inspection just last week. Dr. Robert Khayat, chancellor of the university, said some needed repairs were noted.

"Some of them included things like being sure fire extinguishers on the upper level and in the basement levels worked properly," Khayat said.

The house did not have a sprinkler system but it did have a fire alarm.

"We were told by the police and the fire department that the alarm system worked properly and there was an alarm sounding at the time of arrival," said Khayat.

University officials have called in Department of Justice ATF experts from New Orleans to probe for the cause. They have just started their work.

Meanwhile, fellow students are in a state of shock. Wynn Smiley, chief executive officer for Alpha Tau Omega, who flew in from Indianapolis Friday, said hardest hit are the remaining members of the fraternity.

"Clearly they're not doing well. Not only are they fellow college students, they're fraternity brothers and so there is a very deep sense of loss," Smiley said.

The survivors have been given rooms in an Ole Miss dormitory and provided toilet articles, clothing and books by the university.

University spokesman Mitchell Diggs said there were 23 students and a house mother in the building, which is located near the university coliseum.

A fraternity member who lives off-campus and was not at the
house when the fire occurred said fellow members told him they woke
up coughing and found smoke "everywhere.''

The fire heavily damaged the building. Alpha Tau Omega is one of the well established fraternities at the university. Its house is located about a block from the university's Fraternity Row.

Stan Torgerson contributed to this report.