Woman Found Dead In Westwood Fire Was A UCLA Student, Friends Say
Friends have identified the woman who was found dead in a Westwood apartment fire on Monday as a UCLA student.
UCLA student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, reported that other students identified her as Andrea 'Andy' DelVesco, a senior psychology and Spanish major. According to friends, she was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.
However, authorities have not released her identity yet. "The body has been burned beyond recognition. It (the identification) is going to take a while," Larry Vietz, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, told the L.A. Daily News.
"We’ve had conversations with the next of kin, but we are going to need dental records and there is a security hold on the case," Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations for the coroner’s office, told the Daily News.
KTLA reports that on Tuesday, at least three LAPD detectives were seen canvassing the North Village section area of Westwood, the neighborhood where the fire occurred, handing out fliers informing residents and students that the department's Robbery-Homicide Division, which covers high-profile cases, was in charge of investigating DelVesco's death. They ask that anyone who saw suspicious activity in the area between 4:30 a.m. and 7:05 a.m. call the division.
LAPD officer Drake Madison told the Daily News that investigators are trying to figure out the cause of death. "There were a lot of people coming in and out of that location."
Erik Scott of the Los Angeles Fire Department said that there was nothing in the apartment that would have impeded escape, had she been conscious when the fire broke out—the fire alarms work, and there are no window bars or security gates in the building. According to L.A. County Coroner's Lt. Fred Corral, the death is being investigated as a homicide, reports the L.A. Times. Previous reports stated that DelVesco's boyfriend was a person of interest, though the LAPD retracted that Monday afternoon.
The fire was reported at 7:05 a.m. Monday morning—just a few days before the start of UCLA's fall quarter on Thursday—at 10954 Roebling Ave., an apartment building just blocks from campus that housed other senior Pi Beta Phi members. Firefighters arrived on the scene shortly after the call to find flames spreading from the first-floor onto the second-floor balcony, and smoke billowing from the building. When they learned that a woman might still be inside, they rushed in, but it was determined that she was beyond medical help.
While the sorority has not yet issued a public statement regarding DelVesco's death, the Pi Beta Phi Facebook page has been flooded with condolence messages.
One of DelVesco's neighbors in the same building, Scott Huh, was home when the fire broke out. He told the Bruin. "Everyone was screaming and the fire kept getting bigger and bigger...Everyone kept yelling her name but no one dared to go inside as the fire was too big." Huh spoke to DelVesco the night before the incident, and said, "She was a very outgoing and fun person."
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block issued a statement about the incident, saying that they believed the woman in the fire was a UCLA student. However, the school did not release her name. "On behalf of the entire UCLA community, I extend our deepest condolences to her family and friends. UCLA is a close-knit community, and this tragic event affects us all."