Fire Survivor Recalls Lost Friends, Escape

Student says a "lucky jump" from top floor saved him from inferno.

ByABC News via via logo
February 18, 2009, 8:47 PM

Oct. 30, 2007 — -- As the University of South Carolina continues to heal after a North Carolina beach house fire Sunday killed six of its students and a student from Clemson University, the world is getting know the stories of the victims and survivors.

Of the six people who escaped the blazing beach house, Fredrick Wylie was the only one on his floor to survive.

Wylie, who is known as Tripp to his friends, said he was unsure why he awoke during the fire.

"I don't remember smoke waking me up," he said tonight on "Good Morning America." "I don't remember an alarm waking me up."

Yet for some reason Wylie woke up and opened his bedroom door twice.

"I opened the door a second time and it seemed the thick, black smoke started pouring in. That's when I decided to go to the window and see what my options were," he said.

As flames engulfed the house, Wylie said there was fire burning to his right side. He then saw his second-story window as his only option for survival.

But jumping out of the window proved difficult, not only because of its location, but also because of what lie beneath it.

"You couldn't just jump straight down. There was concrete going down to the canal," he said. "I was just lucky enough to jump far enough to make it to the canal. It was a very lucky jump."

But other students in the house weren't so lucky. In fact, Wylie lost two of his childhood friends in the blaze Justin Anderson and Travis Cale.

"They loved life," he said. "Justin Anderson had a personality … that would grab any stranger off the street. Travis Cale — he and I definitely [are] the best arguers I've ever known. Everything was a friendly competition between us."

Cale, 20, went to high school in Greenville, S.C., along with Wylie and Anderson.

Anderson had spent time watching his school's college football game with friends earlier in the day before the fire, according to his family.

Victim Emily Yelton, too, attended that same high school and was a cheerleader. Friends said the Clemson University sophomore was loved by all.

Yelton was one of several women who died in the fire.

Cassidy Pendely, a 19-year-old USC freshman, was majoring in chemical engineering and in high school had earned recognition as a National Honor Society member, cheerleader and soccer player.

Friends described Lauren Mahon as a fun-loving lady, who always was ready with a joke. They said she lived life to the fullest.

"We know she's looking down on us and smiling and knowing we have a new angel in our lives," said close friend and roommate Amanda Palacio.

The final female victim was Allison Walden. The USC sophomore majored in pre-med and the Ohio native hoped to go back to her home state some day to attain her master's in anesthesiology.

"She was bright, vivacious, had friends," said Terry Walden, Allison's father. "She really had a good life."

The fire's final victim was William Rhea, who was described as funny and outgoing. He played basketball and baseball in high school.

His death has had another component for his family because his older brother Andrew was in the house at the time of the fire. Andrew escaped.

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