FSU Community Mourning Loss of Students Killed in Fire
Frostburg State University’s student community was touched by tragedy a second time in less than eight months when a fire in the early morning of Dec. 3 took the lives two FSU students, leaving the campus shaken and mourning just a week before the end of classes.
The two students who died were Evan Kullberg, a senior, and Alyssa Salazar, a sophomore. They were trapped in their second-floor Main Street apartment when flames and dense smoke blocked their escape route. Despite Alyssa’s calls to 911 for help and the presence of police and firefighters outside the building frantically trying to reach them, they were overcome and died of smoke inhalation. Two firefighters and a police officer who had been trying to rescue the pair required treatment for smoke inhalation and burns.
The apartment was behind Malino’s Pizza Shop, located at 82 E. Main St., which Evan owned with another person. By mid-morning, a mini-shrine had appeared in front of the shop featuring flowers, posters with handwritten messages and birthday balloons – Dec. 3 was Alyssa’s 20th birthday.
“The Frostburg State University community is heartbroken by this tragic loss of two of our precious students,” said FSU President Jonathan Gibralter. “This is a particularly difficult time to absorb the impact of such a painful loss as we are otherwise focused on the tasks that face us this close to the end of the semester and year. It will be important that we take the time to reflect on this loss and its impact on our community and on Evan and Alyssa's loved ones,” he said.
Alyssa was an elementary education major, described by her professors as someone who would have become one of the “Great Teachers.” Evan was a liberal studies major focusing in business. He ran both Malino’s and the Relaxation Station, another Main Street business, and had been honored by the FSU Trident Initiative for his entrepreneurial business plan just months earlier. He also served in the National Guard.
The afternoon of the fire, students gathered at the clock tower in the bitter cold. Steven Dittmer, a friend of Evan’s and the president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Evan’s fraternity, talked about the young man who could always be counted on to help a friend in need. Friends of Alyssa, members of the unaffiliated group Kappa Tau Epsilon, described a person who brought smiles and laughter just by entering a room.
Hundreds of students attended the memorial service that was organized by the FSU Greek community and Student Government Association and held a few days later in the Cordts Center Main Arena. Members of the campus Greek organizations, each holding a lighted candle, solemnly lined the hallway leading to the arena as the two students’ families and friends entered.
Representatives of Evan’s fraternity and Alyssa’s sorority spoke at the memorial, as did Evan’s two sisters, SGA President Ian Spears, Greek Council President Steve Weatherholt and Gibralter. The Chamber Choir, United Voices Under God’s Dominion gospel choir and the Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity sang.
“This tragedy won’t make sense tomorrow, next week, next month or ever,” Spears told the gathering.
The Maryland State Fire Marshal determined that the three-alarm fire was caused by an overheated flue pipe leading from a woodstove through a wood-frame wall of a first-floor common area. Firefighters were unable to locate any working smoke detectors in their apartment, according to the Fire Marshal’s press release. Ten other occupants of the building were able to escape the fire unharmed. The fire was contained before it could ignite any adjacent buildings.