Go Fund Me for Quakertown fire survivors closed after online harassment, phony account reported

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After raising more than $600,000 in roughly 48-hours, a Go-Fund-Me campaign for the survivors of a Christmas Day fire in Quakertown has stopped accepting donations after its organizer received "insensitive and extremely rude emails and comments."

"I have received some tasteless emails and threats and I am no longer comfortable having this open," wrote Kristin Randazzo, who described herself as a friend of the King family. "This was done for a family that has been personally a part of our life, supporting our business for years, and it was in my heart, the right thing to do."

No new information on the investigation into the fatal fire was released Monday. Eric King, 41, and his sons Liam, 11, and Patrick, 8, and two family dogs were killed early Christmas morning after fire engulfed their Essex Court home.

King's wife, Kristen, and eldest son, Brady, 13, escaped the house and were treated at a local hospital and released. They are staying at an undisclosed location.

This photo shows the Essex court home of Carol Arnhold, whose home was extensively damaged Saturday morning in a fire that killed three of her neighbors.
This photo shows the Essex court home of Carol Arnhold, whose home was extensively damaged Saturday morning in a fire that killed three of her neighbors.

Previously, Quakertown Police Chief Scott McElree and Quakertown Fire Marshal Doug Wilhelm have said the fire appears to have started in a live Christmas tree in the front window of the living room. A preliminary investigation leads investigators to believe the lights on the tree started the fire.

The King family was on the second floor of the twin home when the fire broke out shortly before 1:30 Christmas morning, Wilhelm said.

Autopsies determined that Eric King and his sons died of a combination of smoke and soot inhalation and thermal burns, Bucks County Coroner Meredith Buck confirmed Monday night.

On Monday, an update for the Go-Fund-Me page for the King family announced it would no longer accept new donations, after raising $608,970.

In addition to harassing emails, Randazzo wrote in her update that people were using copies of the family photo attached to the Go-Fund-Me account to create fake fundraising pages. No additional details about the harassment and fake accounts was provided in the update.

A new fundraising page "Helping Hands for Kristin and Brady" has been created through GiveInKind.com, which allows donors to purchase gift cards for the family "that are very much needed at this time," Randazzo wrote.

"Thank you for all your donations to this family," she added. "We have pulled together as a community and a nation — yes, this has reached a national level — to support an amazing family," Randazzo wrote. "We met our goal over 30 times...Kristin and Brady are overwhelmed by the amount of support they have."

The deaths of King and his sons sent the small Upper Bucks County community into a state of shock and mourning.

The King family has been " huge part of the Quakertown Youth Baseball Association and spent their days and nights at the baseball fields," according to Randazzo. Kristin and Eric were high school sweethearts "and the happiest people you will have ever met." .

The younger boys were in the fifth and third grades at Richland Elementary School in the Quakertown Community School District. Brady is an eighth-grader at Strayer Middle School. Eric King was a youth sports coach.

Eric King (left) and sons Liam (front left) and Patrick (middle) were killed Christmas morning in a fire at their Quakertown home. His mother Kristen and son Brady (front right) escaped.
Eric King (left) and sons Liam (front left) and Patrick (middle) were killed Christmas morning in a fire at their Quakertown home. His mother Kristen and son Brady (front right) escaped.

On Sunday McElree said the borough and school district had partnered to offer crisis and grief counseling for children, school faculty and families in the community.

"This has devastated the community and we are progressing with efforts to heal those negatively impacted," McElree added.

He added the community outpouring for the family is "probably the most support for any one incident I have ever experienced."

The Quakertown Community School District's Crisis Response Team has partnered with the Bucks County Intermediate Unit to set up supports including hotlines for students, parents, staff and faculties, the district announced on its website.

"This news is devastating to the school district community and the Quakertown area at large. Eric and Kristin and their boys are very active in our community," the school district post said. "The School District sends its heartfelt sympathy to the King family and their many friends and relatives. Please keep them in your prayers."

The intensity of the blaze that destroyed the King home and the home next to it. The houses are twin-style and attached side-by-side, authorities said.

The wooden stick-frame construction also likely helped the fire move quickly, but said the fire wall between the homes did its job and likely accounted for the neighboring family, a mother, her adult son and dog, being able to escape without injury, McElree said.

Neighbors along the tight-knit Essex Court neighborhood also started a second Go-Fund-Me campaign for the King's neighbor, Carol Arnhold, whose home suffered major fire damage and is uninhabitable.

"Carol, her dog and adult son, TJ, made it out safely but left with the clothes on their backs last night," said Karen Hammerschmidt, who organized the second campaign. "Please help to support them to obtain the bare necessities by making a small donation if you can."

Carol Arnhold is a "devoted volunteer" with the Quakertown Community Outreach Closet, which aids homeless and low-income families, and a longtime Quakertown resident, Hammerschmidt wrote.

As of Monday night, the Go-Fund-Me campaign for Arnhold remained active and it had raised more than $31, 000 for the family.

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Effort to help Quakertown fire victims halted after raising $608k since Christmas blaze

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