St. Thomas student hailed as hero who saved friends

  • Article by: HERÓN MÁRQUEZ ESTRADA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 12, 2010 - 8:46 PM

St. Thomas student Michael Larson yelled to wake his friends sleeping in the house they shared. All but Larson made it to safety.

When Cameron Cochran wrote on Facebook over the weekend that his friend and roommate Michael Adam Larson had saved his life, he meant it literally.

Larson, a University of St. Thomas student originally from Woodbury who went by the nickname "Carson," died early Saturday in a house fire near the St. Paul school's campus.

Cochran, 20, was one of three people who escaped the fire by jumping out of second-story windows in the home at 1795 Selby Av.

"People were saying it was the smoke alarms that woke us up, but it wasn't," he said Sunday night. "It was Michael Larson that woke us up. All I heard was him screaming, 'Fire! Fire!' from downstairs. He pretty much saved our lives."

The St. Paul Fire Department has not determined the cause of the fire, which was reported just after 3 a.m. Saturday, but apparently it started around the porch. Smoke alarms were working, by all accounts.

St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said an autopsy will determine an exact cause of death for Larson, who had been sleeping on a first-floor couch when his three friends went to sleep upstairs about 1:45 a.m.

His death was the third fire fatality in St. Paul this year.

Cochran said he was upstairs sleeping when he heard Larson yelling. He opened his bedroom door and "got blasted by heat," he said. "My face was covered by soot."

Cochran, treated for carbon monoxide inhalation at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, said a nurse told him that his friend's body was found in the basement. "After warning us, I think he went into the basement to warn or help another roommate who lives there," Cochran said. "I don't think he knew that [that roommate] wasn't home."

Zaccard disputed that account, saying Larson was found on the first floor near the couch where he went to sleep.

Still, he said, that doesn't mean Cochran's account is not accurate. "I can confirm that [Larson] was found on the first floor," he said. "He might have gone down to the basement and come back up and was overcome. But we found him on the first floor."

The fire started on an enclosed porch. Arson is not suspected, Zaccard said.

Cochran said he and his friends did not learn about Larson's death until hours after the fact.

"We asked the firefighters if they had found him and they said yes," he said. "We figured that since he had woken up and warned us, he must have made it out in time."

Heron Marquez • 952-707-9994

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Michael Larson