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Newport Harbor High School student dies after fire

The Costa Mesa resident was gregarious, wanted to join the Marines, friends say.

February 25, 2011|By Alexandra Baird, abaird.dailypilot@gmail.com

COSTA MESA — A 17-year-old Costa Mesa resident has died of his injuries in a fire at a local apartment complex, the Orange County coroner's office confirmed Friday.

Luke Upton died at 11:16 a.m. Thursday at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, according to the coroner's office.

Upton, a student at Newport Harbor High School, was pulled from a burning garage at 145 Melody Lane in Costa Mesa about 3:30 a.m. Thursday and transported to Western Medical Center, said Costa Mesa Fire Battallion Chief Bill Kershaw.

Kershaw said two other civilians and a firefighter sustained minor injuries and were treated and released.

The Costa Mesa Fire Department Arson Investigation Team is still looking into the cause of the fire.

Kershaw said the garage where the fire started may have been converted into a living space, but whether that use of the space was legal was being investigated.

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Hunter Perry, 17, Upton's best friend and classmate at Newport Harbor High School, said Friday that it was impossible not to be friends with the gregarious Upton, who played on the school's Lacrosse team.

"We became best friends when we first met pretty much," Hunter said. "He just seemed like such a cool kid. He was just a really, really nice guy. We partied, we picked up girls, we went to the beach all the time. We were always together."

Perry's mother, Gina Iovenitti, said Upton was being raised by his grandmother after his mother died five years ago. She said he planned to join the Marines after graduating from high school.

"He was like my own son," Iovenitti said. "He went on vacations with us, they did everything together. That's what makes it so tragic, it could have been any one of them. ... He was just a really great kid. It's a really, really sad loss for everyone."

Iovenitti said a grief counselor would be at Newport Harbor on Monday, and a memorial is expected at a later date.

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