7-Year-Old Girl Dies, Mom Critical After Pa. Fire
Feb. 22--JEFFERSON TWP. -- A 7-year-old girl died and her mother is in critical condition after a raging fire destroyed their home early Thursday.
The Lehigh County coroner's office said Trista R. Bruch, 7, of 18 Collins Ave., Jefferson Twp., died of smoke inhalation at 12:42 p.m. at the hospital after a neighbor pulled her from the fire earlier that day.
Her death has been ruled accidental.
Trista's mother, Brenda Bruch, remained in critical condition on Thursday afternoon.
The tragic death comes just hours after next-door neighbor David Luptak raced to the back door of the burning home, kicking it in just after midnight and pulling Trista and her mother from the home.
"As soon as I opened that back door, a dark cloud from hell came out," the 52-year-old carpenter said.
The heat and smoke knocked him to the icy ground on his back, breathless.
He lay down and inched toward the door with a flashlight. Peering between the smoke and the floor inside 18 Collins Ave., he saw a leg.
"And it was Trista, the baby," he said.
He grabbed Trista, pulled her from the home and handed her to his 20-year-old daughter, Felicia Luptak, a volunteer EMT with the Jefferson Twp. Ambulance Company.
Felicia had run to the home with her father after 14-year-old Brandon Bruch pounded on their door. Covered in soot, the teenager Mr. Luptak watched grow up next door told them his family's home was burning.
While Felicia began CPR on the 7-year-old, Mr. Luptak turned back toward the door.
"Dad, she's not breathing," Felicia called to him.
He crawled into the burning home "yelling 'Brenda, Brenda, Brenda!" for the child's mother. About 8 feet in, he found another leg.
When Mr. Luptak dragged the person out, he assumed he had found Trista's father, Mike Bruch, as his face "was so black I thought it was a beard."
Again he started back toward the fire calling for Brenda when his daughter shouted, "This is Brenda!" Mrs. Bruch's husband, Mike, had left for his midnight-shift job not long before the fire began.
In the two to three minutes before emergency responders arrived, Felicia carried the little girl into her home to continue first aid. Mr. Luptak pulled Mrs. Bruch away from the fire, laying her on the snow and ice -- something the emergency crews told him helped cool her burning body.
Now he can't wrap his head around the fact the little girl is gone. His heart aches for the family that was always friendly, kind and helpful around the area.
"I'm feeling for the family. The loss. I'm devastated," he said Thursday night, shortly after hearing of Trista's death. "I don't even begin to know what to say. My heart goes out in all aspects."
He encouraged the community to rally around the family, spiritually and otherwise, during this tough time.
Brandon Bruch was listed in fair condition at the Lehigh Valley Meidcal Center, where all three were taken after their initial transport to Geisinger Community Medical Center.
State police fire marshals ruled the fire accidental late Thursday, though the exact cause was still pending investigation, said Trooper Connie Devens, a state police spokeswoman.
Trooper Devens said fire marshals ruled out arson but were not certain what caused the fire or where it began.
"They don't believe that there's been any foul play," she said.
Eleven hours after the fire broke out, the water pumped from fire hoses onto the blaze had frozen into icicles hanging from every inch of the charred, collapsing structure.
Cinders cracked and a small flame still flickered from the rubble before the living room's stone fireplace -- the only element of the structure still intact.
Later, Mr. Luptak learned that Brandon Bruch had been using his computer when the power in his home went out. He went to open his door and felt its knob burn his hand.
"He told my son he almost gave up. The handle was so hot he kept burning his hand trying to open the door," Mr. Luptak said. "The kid was very heroic trying to get out of the house."
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