Investigators probe beach house fire that killed seven South Carolina college students

by Kristen Dhalgren
NBC News

Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused a beach house fire that took the lives of seven college students in North Carolina early Sunday morning.

Six of the students were from the University of South Carolina; one of the victims was from Clemson.

Home video captured the raging flames devouring the beach house.

Witnesses say there is nothing that compares with seeing the blaze in person, feeling the heat, and knowing there were young people trapped inside.

"It's a terrible thing when you look at a neighbors house and you realize that were all young people in there, and they probably were asleep," said neighbor Robert Alexander.

George Smith also witnessed the blaze.

"Oh, the whole house was just covered.  It was everything. I felt sick to my stomach," Smith said.

As others came out to see the damage the weight of the tragedy began to sink in.

The seven students killed were fraternity brothers and sorority sisters enjoying a weekend at the beach.

Six others narrowly escaped the blaze, including one who had to jump from a window and into the water below.

At the University of South Carolina, where six of the victims were students, University officials tried to comfort a campus in mourning.

"When one member of our family is lost, we are all diminished," said USC President Andrew Sorenson.

Officials say it appears the blaze started at the back of the house and may have been accidental.

The victims are still being identified, and their next of kin notified, so it may still be a day or two before their names are officially released.