Teen tried to escape fire before collapsing, family says
The flames ripped through the Cypress home in the middle of the night, raging up from the first floor and trapping 14-year-old Shelby Friedsam as her family tried to save her.
Her stepfather, David Crawford, ran to get a ladder from the garage and climbed toward a second-floor window early Thursday. He tried repeatedly to reach her but couldn't fight through the heat.
Deputy constables arrived on the scene about 3:30 a.m. and tried the same thing, but the flames forced them back.
By the time fire officials arrived, it was too late.
Shelby had collapsed, and the fire engulfed the house.
Crawford had tried calling for Shelby to jump from a window, but when she approached, she stumbled backward, said her grandfather, Matt Maciejeski.
"She was trying to get out of there, but she was evidently so overcome by that time that she fell back in," Maciejeski said.
Crawford's steel ladder still leaned against the house facade hours after the fire, blackened at the top and warped by the inferno that consumed the structure from the inside, pulling down the second floor.
It broke out about 3:30 a.m. on the first floor of the two-story house in the 13000 block of Elmington, while four people were upstairs, Maciejeski said.
Shelby's mother, Brenda Crawford, had tried to escape from the front door but was hit by flames and shattering glass and was severely burned on the face, back and arms, he said.
She was treated for second-degree burns at Memorial Hermann Hospital, where she was expected to remain for at least a day, Maciejeski said.
Crawford and his son, David Crawford Jr., escaped by jumping through a second-floor window onto a first-floor roof, although David Jr. was gashed by the glass. Both were treated for smoke inhalation.
The Harris County Fire Marshal's office was investigating the blaze but could not be reached for comment on its cause.
When deputies dispatched to the home arrived, they found the house ablaze. The family was outside and told them the girl was trapped, said Mark Herman, assistant chief deputy with the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office.
'Just very content'
Shelby was a typical teenage girl who loved life, cooking and reading, her family said.
"She was just your average 14-year-old girl that was just very content with who she was, and she just liked to have a good time with her friends," said her stepmother, Robin Friedsam.
The night before the fire, Shelby went to dinner with her father, Randy Friedsam, stepmother and stepsiblings at her favorite Mexican restaurant, Gringo's, Robin Friedsam said.
"It was a wonderful visit," she said. "That's what we're blessed with."
The fire and Shelby's death left relatives shaken by the sudden loss of a teenager who stayed up late reading Twilight and other books. She was a source of life and frequently cooked and enjoyed making annual birthday cards for her father.
"She just had so much more to live for," her stepmother said.
Shelby was a freshman at Cy Creek High School, and her Facebook page Thursday was flooded with messages from friends.
No arrangements have yet been made for her funeral, as the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences is conducting an autopsy.
Brenda Crawford's brother, Walter Maciejeski, didn't believe the news of the fire and Shelby's death when his father gave him the news as he was preparing for work.
He broke into tears as he stood in the street in front of the home where he last visited for a birthday party, he said.
Most of the house's remaining windows were shattered. A pool in the backyard was filled with ash.
"It hadn't sunk in until now," Walter Maciejeski said as he surveyed the charred, hollow home.
Chronicle reporter Dale Lezon contributed to this report.
Local Advertising by PaperG