For close friends, a fiery nightmare

by Molly Moker

When Dustin Carlson’s friends went to the Minnesota Wild game Friday, it seemed like a typical night.

But when he visited them the next day, he found only the charred shell of their duplex.

Carlson came face to face with a nightmare, though, when he discovered three of his friends were killed in the fire Saturday morning at 827 15th Ave. S.E.

“This isn’t supposed to happen,” Carlson said. “It’s something you can’t be ready for, especially not to these people.”

Second-year University students Elizabeth Wencl, 19, Amanda Speckien, 19, and Brian Heiden, 20, were killed, but two other residents and a visitor managed to escape.

Carlson said his girlfriend, who was in Texas at the time of the fire, lived at the residence along with six other friends.

He stopped by the duplex around noon Saturday to surprise her by leaving her favorite ice cream in the freezer but quickly discovered what happened.

He said he was still in shock Saturday afternoon.

“We lived in Bailey Hall together, and there’s not much of a night life in St. Paul,” Carlson said. “We spent every minute together last year.”

Carlson also said he and Heiden played on a softball league together in Carlson’s hometown.

Other bewildered friends gathered outside the remains of the building Saturday afternoon but would not comment to reporters.

Carlson said after attending the Wild game Friday night, the group went to a friend’s house in Hudson, Wis., returned to the duplex around 2:30 a.m. and went to sleep.

Carlson said the seven living in the duplex moved in Sept. 1.

At a press conference Saturday afternoon, Robert Jones, University vice president and vice provost for faculty and academic programs, said the University knew very little about the accident but was deeply concerned.

“We’re very saddened when we lose students,” he said. “It’s very disturbing for the University as a whole.”

Jones said in his 25 years at the University there has never been a residential fire that killed University students, and he said he was unaware of any before his time.

Carlson and three friends with him Saturday said the deaths would leave a hole in their group.

“They were great people and really good friends,” Carlson said. “You could call them for anything.”

He said memorials for students are being planned.