• Community mourns after 13-year-old boy dies in house fire

    By: Kathryn Burcham


    RICHMOND COUNTY, N.C. - A Richmond County community is in mourning after a 13-year-old boy died in a house fire early Sunday morning.

    Investigators said neighbors called 911 just after 4:30 Sunday morning, reporting large flames at the house on Safie Second Street in Rockingham.

    Garon Benson was trapped by the blaze, according to neighbors.

    His mother, Mandy Carpenter, and stepfather, David Carpenter, had escaped from the home but realized Garon was still inside, investigators said.

    Fire officials said Mandy ran back inside to try to save her son, but was pulled away by fire crews. She was critically burned in the process.

    "She heard him yelling for help," said neighbor Scotty Collins.

    Hours later, firefighters found Garon's body underneath the ashes.

    Investigators said Tuesday they still did not know what started the fire, but had ruled it accidental.

    Garon was an eighth-grade student at Rohanen Middle School in Rockingham.

    His principal said he was an honor roll student and rising basketball player.

    Monday, counselors were at school to help classmates deal with the loss.

    "There aren't words to tell you the grief that we experienced," said principal Pam Francisco.

    Francisco said students made memorial boards with messages for Garon that they hung in the hallway.

    They also hope to plan a memorial service in his honor.

    "He was the kind of student that always wanted to do the right thing ... he was a joy to teach," Francisco said.

    Mandy Carpenter remains in critical condition at the burn unit at UNC Chapel Hill.

    In response to the fire, friends and family will be holding a benefit ride for the family on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

    The fundraiser is open to the public and donations are welcome.

    The event will begin at the Southern Road House and drive from the Road House to the site of the fire where family and friends will deliver the proceeds to family members.

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