LINCOLN - A faulty laptop computer is being investigated as the possible cause of a fraternity house fire that killed one Nebraska Wesleyan University student and injured three others, authorities said Monday.
Lancaster County Attorney Gary Lacey said Monday that a laptop computer found in the room of sophomore Ryan Stewart, 19, of Ord, Neb., has been sent to a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms laboratory for analysis.
Batteries in some laptop computers were recalled recently after the U.S. government said they could catch fire.
Lacey said it was too early to make a definitive judgment about the cause of the fire that broke out early Friday at the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house.
"(Investigators) have got a long ways to go," he said. "They don't really know what happened, and I'm not sure they will."
On Monday, members of Phi Kappa Tau donned brown fraternity T-shirts and affixed black ribbons to their chests as they attended some classes after a weekend spent giving interviews to fire investigators and undergoing grief counseling.
Fraternity members were buoyed by the news that the three students injured in the fire had recovered enough to breathe without respirators, said Tim Klipp, a junior and the fraternity's social chairman.
St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center in Lincoln upgraded Travis Mann, 22, of Beatrice and Aaron McGuire, 20, of Sioux Falls, S.D., to fair condition Monday. David Spittler, 20, of Elkhorn, was upgraded to serious condition.
Flames engulfed a room on the second story of the Phi Kappa Tau house about 4 a.m. Friday, killing Stewart, sending three other fraternity members to a hospital burn unit and prompting other fraternity members to jump from second-story windows to escape the blaze. The fire occurred hours after the fraternity had ended one night of a weeklong initiation of new members.
The fraternity's members, who haven't been back into the house since the fire, were amazed by the outpouring of support from the university and the city, Klipp said.
Students donated old books and clothes. Wesleyan sororities cooked meals for them. Professors handed fraternity members money on campus Monday.
The biggest donation came from Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, which will allow the fraternity members to live on their vacant third floor until the fraternity can reopen its house, Klipp said.
"When you have people around here that love you this much, it's just nuts," Klipp said. "Honestly, we don't even know how to be thankful."
The grieving process is just beginning for many of the fraternity members, several of whom counted Stewart as a best friend, said Pauletta Lehn, Wesleyan's campus minister.
The grief may be compounded because many of the students have never lost a close friend or family member, she said. It also may be worsened by lingering feelings of guilt.
"Guilt is certainly one (emotion)," Lehn said. "Why didn't I go back for Ryan? Why did I jump out of the window so soon?
"When you have in some way participated, there is going to be guilt," she said.
Sara Boatman, Wesleyan's vice president for student life, said campus leaders faced unanswerable questions from other students Monday.
Rumors of bottle rockets being shot off inside the fraternity house and speculation about the fire's cause circled campus.
"Clearly the first wave of energy must go to caring for all of our students," Boatman said. "As we're taking care of our community . . . the questions start to arise. How did it start? The community has a deep, deep desire to know."