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UNC-Chapel Hill Students Witnessed Ocean Isle Beach Fire

Posted October 29, 2007

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— As many as 50 students from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were visiting Ocean Isle over the weekend. They were staying near 1 Scotland St., where seven South Carolina students died in a fire.

Hours before that fire, some of the UNC students had been at that beach house, socializing with students from the University of South Carolina.

“They're such a great group, so hospitable and friendly,” UNC student Rebecca Wood said. “I mean, they were college kids just like us.”

The UNC students went to Ocean Isle for a weekend retreat with their service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. Their beach house was so close to the fire, they said they could feel the heat.

“Smoke was just coming toward our house with ash and embers still on fire coming toward us,” UNC student Nick Cain said. “My initial thought is, 'They have to be out of the house!'”

“I know the people that I saw that got out, but I only saw three of the six survivors,” Wood said. “And I was talking to a girl and she was on the phone with her parents screaming names of the missing, and that's when it hit me that not everyone had made it out of that house.”

The UNC students said they were devastated when they learned the fire had killed seven people.

“It's very strange to realize you just met someone and then witness such a life-changing event for them,” Wood said.

“It's just such a tragedy and you just want to know why something like this would happen,” Cain said.

The Alpha Phi Omega group met Monday night with grief counselors. If there is a memorial service at the University of South Carolina, the UNC group said they hope to attend.