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WKU student nearly dies in blaze

A severely burned student rescued from a Western Kentucky University dormitory early Sunday also had superficial puncture wounds, and the fire appeared to have been deliberately set, the state fire marshal’s office said.

“Apparently, this is a crime scene,” said Ken Meredith, spokesman for the fire marshal.

Authorities were investigating the possibility that the female freshman was stabbed, and they are uncertain at what point she suffered the puncture wounds, said Western Kentucky University spokesman Bob Skipper.

A sprinkler system doused the blaze before it could spread to other rooms in the Hugh Poland dorm, where 50 other students were staying at 4 a.m., Skipper said. The other students were evacuated, and no one else was injured.

The student was in very critical condition at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, about 60 miles south of Bowling Green, Skipper said.

University and police officials would not release the name of the injured student.

“The investigators have not released her name. They feel that releasing any information about her at this point would compromise the investigation,” Skipper said.

Students and family members, however, identified the injured student as Katie Autry. Baker Autry of Olaton, Ky., confirmed that his cousin, Katie Autry, had suffered burns.

An online university directory listed a Melissa K. Autry of Pellville as living in Hugh Poland Hall room 214, the room where the fire occurred.

Skipper said investigators with the WKU police force, who are leading the investigation, were interviewing dozens of students Sunday night. No arrests had been made, and police did not release the names of any suspects.

Campus officials said the injured student had not filed any reports indicating that she had experienced problems.

The dormitory houses more than 300 students, who were expected to be able to return to the dorm Sunday night, Skipper said.

Skipper said police officers would begin patrolling the Poland dorm at night, and the dorm staff would be doubled to give students a greater comfort level.