Joshua Donaldson, 18, lost his life following a house fire Saturday at his home in Ila.
Officials were called to the residence located at 71 Glenn Street Saturday afternoon about 1:45 p.m. according to an incident report from the sheriff’s office. A neighbor reportedly spotted the fire and called 911.
Donaldson, who had Down’s Syndrome, was alone in the home with several family pets at the time of the fire, though his mother called to check on him frequently, according to reports.
Ila fire chief Rudolph Nix said the house was an older wood structure. Ila, Poca and Danielsville firefighters responded to the blaze and had it under control in about 30 minutes, though they remained on the scene for about two and a half hours. The blaze was confined to the kitchen and an adjacent porch, Nix said.
Donaldson was found unconscious on a bed in a back bedroom of the home apparently suffering from smoke inhalation, though that part of the home was spared from the flames, according to an incident report. He was given CPR by EMS personnel and taken by ambulance to Athens Regional. Donaldson was pronounced dead a couple of hours later, according to Nix.
The fire marshal was called to investigate, as is customary in fires involving fatalities. Nix said the marshal believed the fire to have started from a microwave or an electrical wiring shortage in the kitchen. Foul play is not suspected.
Two dogs, a cat and several kittens perished in the fire,
according to Nix.
“A HAPPY PERSON”
Donaldson, a student at Madison County High School, was known by his friends as “Josh,” though teacher Allison Clarke, who has taught him for the past four years, said that lately he had begun to insist on being called “Joshua” instead. “He was very adamant this year that he be called Joshua as he wanted very much to be a ‘young man,’” she said.
Clarke said he was a joy to teach and adored by his friends.
He was also an outstanding artist, who loved to draw and even designed a Christmas card for soldiers one year.
He made friends easily, Clarke noted, and loved to laugh.
Harry Potter and Jackie Chan movies were among his favorites and he loved to find information about them on the Internet.
He was also an accomplished athlete, having just brought home two gold medals at the state Special Olympics in Atlanta in late May.
He had been attending ESP (Extra Special People) Camp in Watkinsville for the past couple of weeks. Clarke said students and staff alike were grieving on Monday, but that they tried to keep the students focused on their memories of Joshua, like playing his favorite camp game. A memorial ceremony was held in his honor.
Madison County special education director Joan Baird said Monday that Joshua had been a friend of her daughter, Hannah, since the two were in middle school.
“He came to Hannah’s 18th birthday party and danced and danced, he loved to dance,” Baird remembered. “He loved to show off his muscles and he loved to wrestle; his nickname was ‘Hulk.’” She said she had explained to Hannah that Josh was in heaven and that Hannah had written a letter to him saying that he would he would always “be in her heart.”
Joshua had just attended vacation Bible school at Community Baptist Church the week before, Clarke noted, and had had a lot of fun.
Joshua’s funeral was set for Wednesday at Community, with burial in the church cemetery.