AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

July 5, 2013

Siblings identified as fatal fire victims

By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
Allied News

GROVE CITY — Authorities said a brother and sister were identified as the victims of a fatal fire Monday at 432 McConnell St. in Grove City.

Brandon Lee Fortuna, 28, who lived at the McConnell address; and his sister, Kirsten Lynn Fellows, 43, of Bend Road, Mercer, were positively identified through dental records by Mercer County Deputy Coroner Dr. Charles Beall, forensic odontologist, according to a press release provided by county Coroner J. Bradley McGonigle III's office on Thursday.

Autopsies of the remains were conducted by Dr. Eric Vey, a forensic pathologist in Erie, it added. "The cause and manner of death is pending toxicology results and the (state) police investigation."

Firefighters were called to the scene around 3:15 a.m. Monday. The siblings were pronounced dead by 4:52 a.m. by county Deputy Coroner Dr. David Hoyt, according to the release.

Fortuna was found in the basement about 1½ hours after firefighters arrived; his sister, about two hours later on the second floor, said Jeff Badger, Grove City fire chief.

"We were out there a total of six hours but (putting out) the fire didn't take that long. It was a matter of waiting for the fire marshal and the coroner," Badger said.

"Normally, we always assume someone is in there, but this was burning too bad to send somebody into it."

The chief believed Fortuna was originally on the second floor; however, fell through a hole in second and first floors to the basement, since "the floor was burned out," he said. He assumed Fellows was in a second-floor bedroom "that late at night," he added.

There was no bedroom in the basement, Badger noted.

According to obituary information, Fellows enjoyed horseback riding, arts and crafts, and getting together with friends and family - especially her mother. She was a 1987 graduate of Johnstown High School.

Her half-brother, Fortuna, worked at Integrity Well Services in Jackson Center. He enjoyed fishing and hunting with his twin brother, and many friends. He collected coins and rocks, and he loved caring for stray or lost puppies. He was a 2004 graduate from Grove City High School.

Trooper David R. Jungling Jr., fire marshal at the New Castle state police barracks, is investigating the cause of the fire, which hasn't been determined, Badger said. Jungling could not be reached for a comment.

Portions of the house's exterior walls and roof still stand, charred and skeletal; Badger did not estimate the damage to the home.

Siding on a house next-door was "slightly damaged from the heat," he added. No one else was hurt as a result of the fire on McConnell, Badger added.

Since 1981, Badger has witnessed seven or eight fires with fatalities.

Before Monday's tragedy, the most recent was in 2008 of 21-year-old Bradley Holmes, a Pine Township firefighter who perished from burns sustained in a house fire on Garden Avenue in Grove City. Holmes and Pine fireman Scott King - who was injured but lived - were searching for survivors during the blaze that took the life of Patricia Andrews-Smith.

Before that, Brandon "Brandi" Montgomery Dunn, 22, died in her parent's house on East Washington Boulevard in Grove City in 2006, which was intentionally lit by her husband of six months, Scott Dunn.

The two were house sitting when he bludgeoned his wife with a hammer, doused her and the home with gasoline and set them on fire to cover up his crime. It was the first homicide in the borough in 40 years.

Both fires gained national attention.

Badger said firefighters from Pine, Springfield Townships, Mercer, Stoneboro, and Jackson Center assisted Grove City at the McConnell house fire on Monday.

Brandon Fortuna and Kirsten Fellows will be given a joint service at 5 p.m. today at J. Bradley McGonigle Funeral Home, 1090 E. State St., Sharon, with calling hours from 3 p.m. until the time of the service. Condolences may also be sent to www.mcgoniglefuneralhomeandcrematory.com

Published June 22, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.