Friend of pipeline victim: 'You don't forget something like that'

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 8, 2009 

PIPELINE STEPHEN'S FRIEND

Azure Burrell is pictured at the site of the memorial tree planted in memory of the pipeline victims outside of Roosevelt Elementary school on Thursday, May 28, 2009. Burrell, now a sophomore at Whatcom Community College, was friends with both Wade King and Stephen Tsiorvas. "I can't believe it's been 10 years," said Burrell. "It makes you wonder what they would've been like when they were 20."

KATIE BARNES — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Azure Burrell says the 1999 pipeline disaster that killed three Bellingham youths will remain a lasting memory for kids who knew the victims and for others who knew the families of Stephen Tsiorvas, Wade King and Liam Wood.

Azure was a fourth-grade friend of Stephen and Wade - she says she and Wade had a mutual crush - and she knew their parents.

"That's always something that's going to be a memory," said Azure, now 19 and a student at Whatcom Community College. "That's going to be something that connects us, even 20 years from now."

Azure was a classmate of Wade's and rode the bus home each school day with Stephen and Wade. She lived a few blocks from their houses near Whatcom Falls Park.

Teachers described Stephen as bright, mischievous and full of fun.

"He was just rarin' to go," Azure said. "He was definitely one of those energetic 10-year-old boys."

June 10, 1999, was the last day of school at Roosevelt. About 5 p.m., Azure was playing with a friend near the park, when gasoline leaking from the ruptured pipeline ignited.

"We heard this big boom," she said. "I just saw smoke and took off running toward my house. We could barely see as we were running."

Her father was away on business, but her mother was at home. Some older neighborhood kids drove Azure's family and an elderly neighbor to the safety of the Haggen store at Barkley Village.

Stephen's brother Andrew and a friend helped guide Stephen and Wade - both badly burned - out of the park, and word soon reached Azure's family at the grocery store that the boys had been hurt. The next day, her father told her the boys had died that morning.

"I remember being just really shocked," she said.

Azure remembers having nightmares afterward in which she was running through a field with fire behind her; she would see the boys sitting down, but she couldn't help them to safety.

She didn't attend the boys' funerals, but she was glad whenever Katherine Dalen, Stephen's mother, and Mary King, Wade's mother, came to Roosevelt the following school year to drop off cupcakes or to hug their sons' friends.

Azure said she visits Stephen's and Wade's folks on occasion, and she brings flowers to their graves every June 10.

"You don't forget something like that," she said. "It definitely makes you realize to live life to the fullest."

Reach DEAN KAHN at dean.kahn@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2291.

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