Thursday, May 8, 2003

WKU student dies of dorm fire injuries

By Lori Burling
The Associated Press

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - A Western Kentucky University student who was burned in a fire that was intentionally set in her dormitory room early Sunday died of her injuries Wednesday night, the university said.

Katie Autry, 18, a freshman from Pellville, died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., the university said.

"We will divide our emotions between Katie's death and celebrating the essence of what a college is about," Western president Gary Ransdell said Wednesday night, referring to Saturday's commencement, in a story on the Web site of the Daily News of Bowling Green. "That is graduating students and sending them into the world to be successful."

Western officials have provided little detail about the incident except to confirm that the fire at 4 a.m. Sunday was deliberately set and that Autry suffered abrasions and puncture wounds on her neck and face in addition to third-degree burns.

Autry died at 7:10 p.m., as about 150 students gathered at the bell tower on campus to pray for her, the newspaper reported.

"I'm having trouble coming to grips with this," said Andrew Howard, a freshman from Nashville who lives in Hugh Poland Hall, where the fire occurred, and knew Autry. "It's an extreme act which you don't expect to see."

Western Police Chief Bob Deane spoke briefly at the service, saying, "We are deeply saddened. Believe us, we are doing everything in our power to resolve it."

University officials also appealed to students Wednesday for help in finding the person responsible for the fire.

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