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Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, Published March 18 2014

Victim of fire near UND campus dies

GRAND FORKS - A University of North Dakota student, found unconscious Sunday in his burning house near the campus, died Tuesday morning in a Minneapolis hospital, according to his family.

Matthew Heisler, 21, was pulled from the house at 2029 1st Ave. S., by his roommate, Ryan Nelson, also 21, who came home about 2:40 a.m., Sunday, to find the house filled with smoke.

“This morning we had to say goodbye to our beloved son,” Jared and Cheryl Heisler said in a news release Tuesday afternoon. “In accordance with his wishes, his organs will be donated so that others can live. We just cannot express how much we will miss Matthew and how the thought of going through the rest of our lives without him is beyond what we can imagine right now.”

Fire officials ruled it an accidental fire caused by food left unattended cooking on top of the electric stove. Smoke detectors were operating at the time firefighters entered the house, said Fire Marshal Brian Geatz. Heisler apparently was alone in the house when the fire started.

Matthew Heisler was airlifted Sunday to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis where he had been in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

His parents live in Lakeville, Minn., just south of the Twin Cities. He has a brother, Casey; his sister, Aly, died about a year ago from congenital heart disease.

“We want to thank everyone who has prayed for Matthew and supported us during this difficult time,” his parents wrote. “Please continue to pray for those who will be blessed by life-giving transplants from Matthew, and for his family and friends.”

The house had working smoke detectors, placed where they were supposed to be but their alarm did not alert Heisler, according to Grand Forks Fire Department Tuesday.

It appears that food, oil and grease spilled and spattered on the stove helped fuel the fire, so it ignited faster, said Fire Marshal Brian Geatz.

Geatz said he’s waiting to interview Nelson, who has been in Minneapolis.

Nelson, also a UND student, was treated for smoke inhalation at Altru Hospital and released Sunday.