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    Teenager dies: Separate fires scar families

    A blaze quickly swallows a Wimauma mobile home, killing a 16-year-old boy and leaving a foot of ash on the floor.

    [Times photo: Ken Helle]
    Eleanor LaMothe, left, consoles sister-in-law Pam LaMothe over the death of their nephew Adam Lee Mullins. Adam had lived with Pam LaMothe and her son for a few months.

    By TAMARA LUSH, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 9, 2003


    WIMAUMA -- With flames shooting out the roof of her daughter's south Hillsborough County mobile home, Judy Gargett took quick stock of her family.

    Her daughter Pam LaMothe was at a relative's home. Her grandson, Luke LaMothe, had gone to work. But her other grandson, Adam Mullins ... where was he?

    "I thought Adam was out," said Gargett, 63.

    As Gargett ran toward the Wimauma home early Wednesday, she saw a neighbor trying to break the windows. Someone was inside.

    "The fire was going, going too fast," said Gargett. "We couldn't get to him."

    Adam Lee Mullins, 16, died in the fire.

    Rescue workers found his body in the doorway of the home's back bedroom, apparently trying to escape from the blaze.

    Firefighters with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue were called to the home at 18416 U.S. 301 at 8:52 a.m. It took crews 11 minutes to arrive, and when they did, the home had been swallowed by fire.

    "It's a mobile home, it's going to go up quickly," said Fire Rescue spokesman Ray Yeakley.

    It is unclear how the fire started, said Yeakley. There was a space heater inside, but family members said it had been turned off the night before. A state fire investigator and a Hillsborough Fire Rescue fire marshal are investigating.

    Because the damage to the home and its contents was so widespread, the investigators may have a hard time discovering why the fire started.

    Everything in the home was burned beyond recognition, except for the black skeletal frame of the mobile home and the sagging metal roof. A foot of grey ash covered the floor, and the heat from the fire was so intense that it melted some of the the white lattice skirt around the foundation.

    Adam was the only person in the house at the time of the fire. When his family last saw him on Wednesday morning, he was asleep in his bed.

    Adam had lived with his aunt -- LaMothe -- and her 17-year-old son, Luke, for about three months. He and Luke shared a bedroom.

    Luke said his cousin liked riding bikes, hanging out playing video games and the band Insane Clown Posse.

    LaMothe homeschooled Adam because he had a difficult time in high school, she said. Adam's mother lived down the road with her new husband and Adam's two siblings.

    He was close to his grandmother and gave her a tiny pin for Christmas.

    "He gave me a hug yesterday," she said, sobbing.

    This isn't the first time LaMothe's home has burned. She lived in a moble home 10 years ago that also was destroyed by fire, said family members.

    Outside the charred home Wednesday afternoon, Adam's family hugged and wept, and wondered what was next.

    "He was a fabulous kid," said LaMothe, her hand shaking violently as she handed a relative a cell phone. "He's gone now, that's all you can say."

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