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Cars destroyed and student injured in parking lot fire at UAlbany

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By Connor Murphy

Staff Writer

May 6, 2015

A fire broke out in the Colonial Quad parking lot at the University at Albany this morning, burning three students’ cars beyond repair.

The cause of the fire, which began in junior Emily Li’s Honda Accord, is still unknown, according to New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control representative Philip M. Chandler. The case is under congruent investigation between university and city authorities.

James Molinell, an owner of one of the destroyed cars next to Li’s, had only two words for an initial reaction: “just shocked.”

Photo by Connor Murphy
Photo by Connor Murphy

The fire, which took nearly 30 minutes and 10 firefighters to fully contain, attracted large crowds of students. They were all urged to stay back by police as potential gas and oil leaks could have spread from the burning vehicles, bringing the blaze to the other estimated 200 vehicles in the area.

Li, who said she was the first on the scene by her car, explained how she saw the fire in the backseat, called the police, and opened the door to try to put it out with a tablecloth.

“The rush of oxygen just took over,” she explained. She received minor burns on her left hand and wrist, which were wrapped in an ace bandage upon her return to the scene.

After the fire was under control, two university workers laid down absorbent pads surrounding the three cars. One of them explained that the pads would soak up the leaking gas and oil but let water naturally flow to the storm drains unpolluted. The charred vehicles were then towed away and will presumably be held as evidence for any further investigation by authorities and insurance companies.

Chandler, who pointed out a strut flung nearly 20 feet from one of the cars, mentioned that the first students on the scene were lucky to be unscathed after being so dangerously close to the flames. He stressed that the incident was a reminder of the need for education fire safety and prevention at the university.

Photo by Connor Murphy
Photo by Connor Murphy

University officials from the Office of Communications and Marketing gave indications that they would help work something out with the three students whose cars were damaged during the upcoming finals week.

One student’s friend is raising money to help one of the victims who lost a care in the fire.

A GoFundMe page was created by university student Jon Mayer to help out Tori Bocchino, the owner of the third car destroyed in the fire, a Nissan Maxima that she recently purchased. The charity’s goal is $2,000, with $146 already donated so far.

“Putting myself in her position, especially since this is occurring right before finals week, I would be extremely flustered and unsure of what to do next,” wrote Mayer. “As her friend I want to help take the burden off of her and help her get past this tragic event.”

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