Freshman burned in fire out of ICU

A month after being severely burned in a fire in his Thurston Hall room, freshman Kevin McLaughlin was moved out of the intensive care unit at the Washington Burn Center last week.

McLaughlin’s father, Timothy McLaughlin, said in an interview last week that his son is in a “step-down” unit, an area that has less nurses assigned to each patient, but still remains in critical condition. While the freshman was recently taken off a respirator and no longer requires a personal nurse, he still cannot speak due to his burns.

Kevin McLaughlin, from Farmington, Conn., was burned in his ninth floor room last month after his sheets caught fire by touching a portable electric grill.

“His lungs are getting better; they are healing the burn,” said Timothy McLaughlin, who is a doctor. “He has two surgeries in the next two weeks, including another grafting procedure. He has already received two grafting procedures.” His son can also walk on a limited basis.

“Throughout all of this, Kevin has stayed in good spirits, which has been helpful to both him and those around him,” McLaughlin said.

When asked if his son was going to make a full recovery, McLaughlin responded, “The main thing is that he is alive, and I look forward to his return to The George Washington University, hopefully this fall.”

Timothy McLaughlin, who spoke with President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg immediately after the March 23 accident, criticized the University for its inadequate safety precautions and the absence of sprinklers in Thurston rooms. He reemphasized that he would not sue the school, but would like to talk to Trachtenberg once again to discuss changes in GW’s policy on fire safety.

“I am not looking to capitalize on the tragedy; I just want to see something good come out of all that has happened,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin added that he was especially impressed to hear that the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, which Kevin McLaughlin was pledging, had a wiffle ball tournament earlier this month that raised $2,400 to be donated to the Washington Burn Center.

“We would like to thank (the Washington Burn Center) for their help in bringing our friend back to a full recovery,” said Chris Brooks, a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

The tournament raised $400 from six teams and received an additional $2,000 from outside contributions.

McLaughlin’s recovery comes as Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) prepares to introduce a piece of campus fire safety legislation in Congress next week. The Campus Right to Know Act would require colleges to provide the Department of Education with information about their fire history, number of building sprinklers and the types of fire prevention education offered.

Ed Comeau, director of the Center for Campus Fire Safety, said the legislation, which has failed twice before, will be intensely debated due to the most recent GW fire along with recent blazes at other universities.

“It is my understanding, after speaking with Rep. Pascrell, that he is determined to see some action this time around,” Comeau said.

Comeau emphasized that this legislation would not require schools to acquire information that they did not already have; it would only require them to publish it.

He added that the proposed legislation bears similarities to the 1990 Cleary Act, which requires all schools to release crime and security statistics.

Comeau said, “We are looking for similar information so that students and parents can make an informed decision when considering different colleges.”

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