Fire kills Morgan City High School student

A Morgan City High School freshman died after he was injured in a Sunday fire in Prairieville.

Antonio Collins, 16, of Morgan City passed away Monday night, according to the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The Prairieville Fire Department responded to the fire at the Beau Jon Avenue home of Collins’ grandfather at 6:16 a.m. Sunday.

Lance Lamarca, supervisor of the State Fire Marshal’s Office arson division, said the blaze originated in the living room. The cause is classified as “undetermined with inability to rule out electrical malfunction,” Lamarca said.

Family friend Jessica Daniels said the grandfather is in another Baton Rouge General Medical Center in stable condition with minor injuries.

WAFB Channel 9 reported that Collins and his grandfather were asleep in the house when the fire started. The man escaped through a side window, but Collins was found unconscious in a hallway outside the bedroom where he had been sleeping, the TV station reported.

Collins was taken to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales and then to Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center in Baton Rouge, where he later died.

Shannon Swiber, a family friend, reported about the tragedy in a social media message.

“He passed away last night. There was a house fire at his grandpa’s house in Prairieville. The fire stayed mostly in the attic … but Antonio was found unresponsive outside of his bedroom door.

“Medics revived him at the scene and took him to St. Elizabeth’s,” Swiber stated. “They then transferred him to another hospital in Baton Rouge and were saying he was brain dead. He was still alive but on life support. At 8 last night they said they would do another CAT scan to see if there was any brain activity then decide on whether or not to take him off the machines. There was a lot of smoke in his lungs. They tried to take him off the machine around 3 or so after the boys had a chance to see him and his stats dropped so they had to put him back on. They decided to try again at 8 and, if he wasn’t responsive. .... At 8 they blessed him and they started the test. It took a half hour to get the results. It was determined that he was brain dead and there was no hope ... But he isn’t suffering, and he passed surrounded by family and friends,” Swiber said.

His mother, Yolanda Collins, chose for him to be an organ donor, and the hospital took his organs this morning, Daniels said.

Morgan City High School Principal Mickey Fabre said the mood at the school today is decidedly downcast.

“It has been a somber last day of school at Morgan City High School as we have lost one of our own. We received word through social media yesterday afternoon that Antonio had been involved in a house fire while at his grandfather’s home. This morning, the news media confirmed our worst fears. Antonio was an honor student, a talented artist and an exceptional young man. The entire MCHS family is struggling with our tremendous loss this morning. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Antonio’s family at this difficult time,” Fabre said.

“That’s what you think about, seeing him in the halls and he was always smiling and polite, always respectful. You take for granted that it’s going to be there always and it’s not,” Fabre added.

Daniels agreed. “He’s a humble child. He’s just a good kid. It’s devastating. It’s really hard to swallow. We’re thankful for the time (his friends) got to have with him yesterday,” she said.

The principal noted that because it is the last full day of school, the seniors are gone and the upperclassmen didn’t come, so the population is mainly comprised of his peers, freshmen.

“Teachers and guidance counselors have had the time to really talk to the kids and help them cope,” Fabre said. “Guidance counselors have been in each of his classes today and we’re on an abbreviated schedule because we dismiss early, so that helps too.”

Swiber said four of his friends — Drew Duval, Clifton Escort, Ian Martin, Austin Parks — wore T-shirts emblazoned with his picture to school today “to walk him through the halls one last time. It’s so sad. But they were there with him and his family until the very end. They were so brave. They broke dress code to do it. I can imagine Antonio is getting a kick out of that up in Heaven. I don’t know where they’re getting their strength from, but they are all holding up well.”

Daniels said the four friends were the last ones to enter the room and to say their goodbyes.

“They’re so young, 15 and 16, to lose a best friend. They’ve been best friends since second or third grade,” Daniels said.

She added that Collins’ funeral will be held Monday in Baton Rouge. A memorial service will be held Tuesday, June 4, at Morgan City Junior High School. The time has not been established.

He is survived by his mother; his father, Eddie Coco; and two brothers, Eddie and Damian.

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