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July 14, 2013

Fire victims remembered

PLATTSBURGH — Elizabeth “Betty” Waddy had asked her son, George, for an almanac the last time they spoke.

At 98, she remained inquisitive, enjoyed learning, he said.

“This lady was talented, and it never wore off.”

Elizabeth died the next day, July 4, in a house fire at 31 Homestead Drive in Plattsburgh. Police say it was sparked by three children playing with a lighter and accelerants in the garage.

Josephine Brusgul and Walter “Tink” Hotaling also lost their lives.

The residence, a certified adult-care home, was owned by Christopher and Catherine Swiesz, who, George said, called him to express their sorrow over his mother’s tragic death.

“They were incredibly well-intentioned,” he said of the couple’s dedication to the adult-care home. “The environment was really good. My mother was very comfortable there.”

Mrs. Waddy had moved from her home in Saranac into the assisted-living-style residence last August, he said.

’NOT LIKE THIS’

The Swieszes’ two-story wood-frame home was destroyed by the conflagration that spread from garage to house too quickly for rescuers to reach Waddy, Brusgul and Hotaling.

The children, police said, raised the alarm, and five people inside were able to escape. Mrs. Swiesz and Samantha Swiesz, 15, were rescued by neighbors.

George has been told by investigators that it is likely his mother was unconscious before the fire reached them, but the toxicology reports have not yet come back.

“It’s not easy to think about this,” he said Friday. 

“Her passing was to be expected sometime within the reasonable future ... but she was still robust and active.

“She deserved to be able to pass peacefully — not like this.”

He expressed sadness over the deaths of his mother’s housemates, as well as for the loss suffered by the homeowners.

“It was something unnecessary; there were three people lost.”

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