Dead 8-year-old girl missed badly by her classmates

BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) - The tragic death of little Ariana Hathaway in an early morning house fire last month has left an empty desk and a lot of empty hearts at her former school.

''Here is a child sitting in this chair Monday and on Tuesday she's not there and the kids know she is not coming back,'' West Hills Elementary School principal Flint Walpole said.

Flowers, notes and stuffed animals decorate 8-year-old Ariana's small desk, sitting against a wall in Room 9 at the Bremerton school.

The empty desk serves as a memorial for classmates of the second-grader killed in the blaze on March 13. The fire left her mother and little brother without a home.

Ariana's teacher remembered her as a good all-around student who worked hard.

''She always had a wonderful smile on her face,'' Julie Raymond said.

The notes on her desk speak volumes about how much her classmates miss her.

''I miss Ariana so much and when I think of her my heart will break,'' a note said.

Ariana's classmates have met with counselors. They have spent time drawing and writing letters to their deceased friend.

When firefighters arrived at Ariana's house at about 3 a.m., they found almost completely engulfed in flames. Ariana's mother, Maria Cecilia, and her 3-year-old brother, Antwon, escaped. Ariana died of smoke inhalation.

Her mother and brother were discharged from the hospital in time to attend Ariana's funeral March 17.

The school conference room has been a collection point for house wares and clothing donations and a bank account has been established to collect donations.

Maria Cecilia is staying with family friends, Walpole said. She suffered burns on her arms and face. ''She's just trying to get her life back together,'' the principal said.

Ariana's death is especially tragic because it shouldn't have happened. Kitsap County Fire Marshal said the fire was caused by unattended candles and the house did not have working smoke detectors.

At the school, the conference room has become a warehouse for the donations to the family, including a television set, furniture, beds, dishes.

The Hathaways are in need of cash, gift cards to variety stores and grocery stores, spices, bowls, cups and glasses. They also need medical supplies, such as bandages, ointments, clothes and toys for Antwon, district spokeswoman Krista Carlson said.

The school has collected more than $1,300, Walpole said.

Donations can be made at the Kitsap Credit Union in the name of Maria Hathaway.