The death of a Bergen County teenager in a house fire has staggered many in the community where she was raised, as well as others from area towns and beyond.
Riley Boyle, 17, of Allendale was a stellar student-athlete who maintained a 4.0 Grade Point Average, as many who spoke of her pointed out.
She was, as one put it, "an incredible role model for her peers."
Riley's family released a statement through attorney Ronald Dario:
"Our hearts are broken as we struggle to make sense of this terrible tragedy. Our only solace is in the outpouring of love from the community that shows us how in her mere 17 years, Riley has touched so many hearts.
"While we are grieving in private and appreciate your respect for our family, our community coming together gives us a glimmer of light in our darkest times.
"Thank you all."
Northern Highlands Regional School District Supt. Scot Beckerman said the death of the popular junior on Saturday "leaves a significant void in our community and our hearts."
Northern Highlands Regional High School Principal Joseph Occhino said he, like many others, was feeling "great sadness and a very heavy heart."
"The entire school community extends our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the Boyle family during this very difficult time," Occhino wrote.
Northern Highlands had a delayed opening Monday so students, teachers and staff could receive counseling from its Crisis Response Team, Wellness and Guidance departments and Child Study Team.
They were, assisted by counselors from North Jersey Health and Wellness and other area high schools.
"This definitely affected many people: family, friends, students, neighbors, emergency responders," Allendale Police Chief Michael Dillon said. "It's raw for everyone."
Firefighters and EMS workers were visibly shaken outside the Bonnie Way home early Saturday evening. They'd come from a dozen or so area towns -- and as far as Suffern, NY -- to assist their Allendale colleagues.
"Some are very bothered by what they saw. We're all so sad," one firefighter said once the blaze was extinguished. "That poor kid...."
Brian and Kristen Anne Boyle had apparently gone out for the evening when the back of their 2½-story Bonnie Way home accidentally caught fire around 5:30 p.m., responders said.
Riley's 19-year-old sister, Cassidy, was downstairs with a family friend as the flames quickly spread to a rear hot tub room and a porch covered by a plastic pergola.
Cassidy and her companion got out as the expanding fire consumed the back of the house just below the upstairs bathroom, where Riley was taking a shower -- and most likely didn't hear the smoke alarms, responders said.
Firefighters found Riley in the bathroom. They quickly got her outside and began intense CPR.
Her parents were notified and rushed to The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, where she was pronounced dead.
A pet dog and two cats also killed in the fire were found in the hot tub room.
Allendale firefighters were joined by their colleagues from Franklin Lakes, Ho-Ho-Kus, Ramsey, Mahwah, Oakland, Saddle River, Upper Saddle River, Waldwick, Wyckoff and Suffern.
They had the bulk of the fire knocked down in about a half-hour. They needed considerably more time, however, to fully extinguish what became a four-alarm blaze that severely damaged the million-dollar home.
EMS units from Allendale, Ramsey and The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood also responded, along with crews from Orange and Rockland Utilities and PSE&G.
A regional Critical Incident Stress Debriefing unit also was requested to counsel the responders.
An official cause of the fire will be determined once an investigation is complete. Responders all agreed it appeared accidental.
Meanwhile, a classmate of Riley's has launched a petition to name the running track at their school after her.
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