house-fire aftermath, elizabeth city, december 2000

Originally published Dec. 29, 2000 | (c) The Virginian-Pilot, 2000

Fire victim mourned; child still recovering

ELIZABETH CITY — Charred bath towels are still piled on the lawn beside an upturned plastic planter shaped like a swan. Yellow police tape circles the house, where windows are broken or gone.

These are the images marking the site of a fire on West Colonial Avenue one week ago today that left a local woman dead and her youngest of three children hospitalized in critical condition.

Karen Kay Spaulding Warga, 40, was unconscious when she was pulled from an upstairs window at 706 Colonial Ave. a little after 11 p.m. Dec. 22, said Fire Marshal Barry Overman. Resuscitation efforts failed, and she was pronounced dead, presumably from smoke inhalation, at Albemarle Hospital.

Warga’s funeral was held Thursday in the chapel at Twiford’s Funeral Home.

“She was a terrific daughter,” said her mother, Janice Spaulding. “She was a terrific mom.

“She loved flowers. She was a good friend if you needed one. She loved cooking.”

Firefighters found Warga’s 10-year-old-son, Lee, unconscious near his mother, Overman said. The boy also was taken to Albemarle Hospital, then was airlifted to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk.

Lee is still in the intensive care unit there, said hospital spokesman George Stinnett.

Relatives keeping a bedside vigil reported that the boy opened his eyes for the first time Thursday, Spaulding said.

“His lungs were badly burned,” she said. “His eyes were burned  — but he does have some sight. We don’t know how good it’s going to be yet, but he’s not blind.”

Darryl Arthur, 39, Warga’s boyfriend and the third person in the house during the fire escaped from an upstairs window, Overman said. Witnesses say Arthur tried to re-enter through the front door but couldn’t, Overman said.

The fire was contained to one room, but the smoke and heat was tremendous,” Overman said.

Arthur was treated at Albmarle Hospital and released, hospital staff said.

The blaze, believed to have been electrical in origin, was reported at 11:06 p.m. by a neighbor.

Emergency personnel were on the scene one minute later and had the fire under control in about 25 minutes, Overman said.

Warga is also survived by sons Andrew Kenneth Loyed Spaulding, 21, and Ryan Anthony Stovall, 18, both of Elizabeth City, and by her father, Arthur Wallace Spaulding.

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