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3 die in Indiana County trailer fire


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Sunday, May 18, 2014, 1:06 p.m.

Nicole Novak recently started a new job and was teaching her special-needs daughter sign language.

Her husband-to-be, Shawn Marsh, 28, kept busy with his tree service business in Indiana County.

All three perished in a fast-moving fire at 3:30 a.m. Sunday at their mobile home in White Township. Gabriella Novak, 9, was found with her mother, 27, and Marsh in a rear bedroom, along with two family dogs, according to Coroner Jerry Overman Jr.

“They were both good parents,” said Novak's stepfather, Rich Morrill of Butler.

Two other children — Shawn Jr., 7, and Eva, 10 — spent the night with relatives and weren't home at the time of the fire, Morrill said. State police fire marshals are investigating. Neighbors reported an explosion.

Morrill and his wife, Denise Morrill, stood stunned at the scene hours later at the intersection of Independence Lane and Keystone Drive in Colonial Court, not far from Indiana Borough. They looked over the home's blackened insides and melted kitchen appliances, wiping away tears and talking to neighbors.

A child's lime green bicycle lay on the grass, and two other bikes leaned against a tree. Rich Morrill hoped to salvage the items for the remaining children but had to abandon the plan because the bikes were damaged.

Neighbors and friends Amanda Rearick and Jamie Mason said they knew the family for about three years. Rearick said Novak was teaching sign language to Gabriella, who had a nonverbal form of autism.

“She was a really sweet little girl,” Rearick said. “(Novak) was really close with Gabby.”

The girl liked to draw, play video games and watch cartoons, Rich Morrill said. Novak recently began working at a pharmacy in the area, he said. Marsh was a hard worker, he said, and the couple was planning a wedding.

Indiana Fire Association firefighters arrived to find a fully involved, aluminum-sided mobile home and conflicting reports of whether anyone was inside, said First Assistant Chief Paul Koons.

“The neighbors all sort of agreed that they were awakened by a loud explosion,” he said. “We knocked the fire down as best we could and went inside” and found the victims.

“It was, unfortunately, a terrible, terrible scene, but we did the best we could do,” Koons said.

Beverly Downey was walking her dog, Miss Buddy, before attending church on Sunday morning when the dog pulled her up a hill behind her son's apartment into the trailer court.

“She just hunkered her feet in, and she would not budge,” said Downey, of Sewickley, who was visiting her son for the weekend.

Downey asked her church congregation to pray for the family and was heartbroken to learn in the afternoon of the three fatalities, she said.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Autopsies are scheduled for Monday in Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or




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