Portland fire victim’s family faces obstacles beyond finances

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PORTLAND — Ashley Summers wears her husband’s identification badge from his job at Boston Financial.

“I feel like I have him right with me,” she said Dec. 23 as she talked about a new fundraising website to assist her family after the death of Steven Summers on Nov. 4.

Summers died from burns he received in the Nov. 1 fire at 20-24 Noyes St., which also killed five others. He is survived by Ashley and their daughters, Audryn, 5, and Maliyah, 3.

Since the fire, Ashley Summers’ pipe-fitting job and work as a union representative have been on hold at Bath Iron Works.

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“I have not fully gone back to work yet,” she said.

A Go Fund Me site was set up to help her meet expenses. It raised more than $6,700 of its $10,000 goal by Dec. 23.

The fund was established by Paul Garrido, who had visited the Noyes Street home with Steven Summers on Oct. 31. He escaped the fire that was reported around 7:15 the next morning.

Tenants David Bragdon Jr., 27, Ashley Thomas, 29, and Nicole Finlay, 26; city resident Christopher Conlee, 25, and Topsham resident Maelisha Jackson, 26, also died in the fire.

Summers filed a wrongful death suit on Nov. 21, seeking at least $1.6 million from property owner Gregory Nisbet. The amount is based on estimated earnings if her husband worked until he was 65.

In the interim, she and her attorney, Tom Hallett, said a disagreement over how the Go Fund Me money would be distributed left her without needed assistance.

“There was a disagreement in theory as to what the money would be used for,” Hallett said.

The Go Fund Me page described the goal to raise $10,000 to help “with any costs associated with (Steven Summers’) funeral and donating the rest to an account set up for his daughters as an early college fund and any needs/expenses acquired from the loss of their father.”

Questions about access to the money were resolved Dec. 23, Hallett said, and the Go Fund Me site was shut down.

“He is acting in good faith,” Hallett said of Garrido.

Money from other fundraisers paid two months of rent and bought heating oil for the family home in Topsham and winter clothing for Audryn and Maliyah, Summers said.

She said Maliyah at first could not understand her father was gone, and then became angry.

“Now (Maliyah) is coming up with unique ways of making him come back,” Summers said.

Her older daughter has been left with questions Summers said she can’t answer.

“(Audryn) wants to know why, and that is killing me more,” Summers said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the state Office of the Fire Marshal. Summers said knowing what caused the fire has limited value for her.

“(It’s) tough not having a cause, but it still doesn’t bring him back. At the end of the day, Steven is gone,” she said.

The shift to a YouCaring fundraising website and a local fund at the Key Bank branch at 400 Forest Ave. allows Summers direct control of contributions, and also allows her to keep all online donations.

Go Fund Me assesses 5 percent fees and the We Pay transaction service it uses adds 2.9 percent and an additional 30 cents on donations. YouCaring’s administrative costs are covered by separate donations from supporters.

A Go Fund Me drive to assist other fire victims has raised $5,900 of its $50,000 goal.

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