9-year-old dies in fire 4 others hurt, 1 critical Stoneleigh house is destroyed; cause of blaze still undetermined


A 9-year-old Baltimore County boy was killed and four people were injured early yesterday when a fire burned out his family's home in Stoneleigh.

John Christian Grothmann was pronounced dead at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center shortly after the 3:45 a.m. fire at the home in the 600 block of Regester Avenue. The boy was a fourth-grader at Stoneleigh Elementary School, neighbors said.

His brother, Bob Curtis Grothmann, 22, was in critical condition at the burn center at Francis Scott Key Medical Center with burns over 40 percent of his body. Another brother and a family friend also remained hospitalized last night, and a sister was released after treatment -- all for smoke inhalation, county police said.

The four survivors were able to escape with the help of neighbors. Two men living on either side of the Grothmann house were awakened by the smoke and flames and raced out of their houses to rouse the occupants of the burning house, neighbors said yesterday. Both men were too shaken by the experience to speak to reporters, relatives said.

But the wife of one of the men, who did not want her named used, said her husband woke her up, told her to call 911 and then raced outside.

"He started banging on the door . . . and yelling for people to wake up. Then we started hearing cries inside," she said. "It was totally in flames when I saw it. It traveled extremely fast."

Two of the occupants managed to escape from the basement, one came out through a front window and one was rescued after climbing out of a second-story window onto the roof of a rear porch.

"The one boy was screaming to get his brother. But they couldn't. The smoke was too thick," the next-door neighbor said.

The others injured were identified as Beth Grothmann, 22, who was released from St. Joseph Hospital; and her boyfriend, Ronald Drager, 25, and brother William Grothmann, 15, both listed in good condition there.

The family's dog also died in the blaze.

According to a family member, the mother, Barbara Grothmann, and another daughter were away at the time of the fire, and the father was not living there.

The cause of the one-alarm fire remained under investigation last night, the police said.

Yesterday afternoon, Bob Pflaumer, an uncle of the Grothmann children, stood outside the gutted house and watched as workers boarded up the doors and windows.

"It basically gutted the whole place, except the attic and the basement," Mr. Pflaumer said. "Structurally, it's OK, but it's totaled inside. They lost everything."

Mr. Pflaumer said he was overwhelmed by the response of the close-knit neighborhood, where people made sure that arriving family members' needs were met.

The Stoneleigh Neighborhood Association has begun collecting clothing and money for the family.

And he said he especially appreciated the efforts of the two men who helped to get the rest of the family out of the burning house.

Mr. Pflaumer, who is a volunteer firefighter in Salisbury, has seen quite a few house fires.

"It's odd, two weeks ago we had a similar case," he said. "But we were able to get all the people out."

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