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Lighting the Lake with Love: A candlelight vigil and a night of caroling benefit the Carolina Beach fire victims

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In the early morning hours of Saturday, December 6, residents of Carolina Beach awoke to flames engulfing two condominium buildings in the 400 block of Carolina Beach Avenue South. The fires destroyed both dwellings and took the lives of Darlene Ann Maslar and Mary Angeline Cochran. Several cars parked outside the Sea Ranch Motel also were destroyed in the tragedy in the three fires set.


Three fires set in Carolina Beach claim condominiums, cars and two lives. Photo by Christian Podgaysky

“Everyone is saddened and everyone is hugging each other just a little tighter,” Shannon MacKay vice president of Carolina Beach nonprofit Island Women and wedding mister for Circle of Love Wedding Ceremonies says with a heavy heart. “I think everyone was so excited the night before this happened; we had the biggest Christmas parade I think we have ever had and it just felt like such a nice way to gather and start preparing for Christmas. The next morning we woke up to the horrible news of the fire, and then several days of sickening anticipation to find out how many people were lost and then the waiting to find out who; it has all been like one sickening blow after another.”

The man responsible for the heinous acts of arson, 22-year-old Kure Beach resident Marshall Hudson Doran, was apprehended by police on Monday, December 8, for an unrelated burglary charge. Doran was charged with two counts of first-degree murder on Thursday, December 11. More charges for property damage, the lives of animals claimed in the fires and injuries sustained that Saturday night are expected to be brought against him, too. These charges will add to a hit-and-run charge that resulted in the death of two people back in February. Details on Doran’s motive have yet to be revealed. Currently, he is being held without bond.

While the path to justice has begun, the grieving process for the Carolina Beach community has just started. Locals rallied to help with clean up, and the painful loss of the two local women radiates throughout the ravaged seaside area. However, Carolina Beach has risen like the ashes of a phoenix to meet the needs of those whose lives were disrupted by the fire. Residents have upstarted efforts to return peace to area and promote healing. Three cars already have been donated, which are being repaired by Superior Auto in Carolina Beach, to replace those lost in the fires. As well, a pig pickin’, complete with barbecue, a silent auction and live bands, was held at The Last Resort bar to raise funds.

“Justin Donation from Coastwalk Real Estate stepped up and offered his parking lot and box truck as a drop off point for donations,” MacKay says. “The Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project Group manned it for two days, and what the community donated was incredible! There were food donations made by Food Lion and the Help Center of Federal Point near the post office. The Island Women helped to organize those items so the families could come through and receive what they needed.”

Likewise, an organization deemed the Pleasure Island Relief Fund formed the day after the heartrending events in a town hall meeting. The organization comprises Dan Wilcox (Carolina Beach mayor), Steve Shuttleworth (Carolina Beach council member), Naomi Paine (president of Island Women) and Mackay, Bob Lewis (president of Island Men), Barbra Tillison, (member of the Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project), Jasmine McKee (of the Island Gazette), Greg George, Justin Donation (of Coastwalk Real Estate), and members of the Carolina Beach Fire Department. While convening, they set forth a plan to augment the work already being done by the Red Cross disaster relief. Funds donated to the organization will be allocated by Carolina Beach based on necessities. Prime issues that need to be addressed by the raised funds will be medical bills for burn victims, housing needs, vehicle replacement, and counseling. 

On Friday, December 19, a candlelight vigil and night of caroling will be held to benefit the newly formed organization and pay tribute to those affected by the fires. “This was something I woke up thinking about on December 9,” MacKay tells. “After talking with so many people and knowing that everyone was so grief stricken, I just felt like I had to do something for everyone! I know that music heals and comforts people; that is what I am studying right now with the Music for Healing and Transition Program for Therapeutic Musicians. This whole island needs healing right now: We have tragically lost two beautiful women.”

Island Chic and Island  Women will provide coffee, water and hot cocoa for the event. Baked goods will come from Wake and Bake and Zoës Kitchen. Community members also will be dishing out delectable baked goods for the event. Songbooks and candles will be given out upon entrance for a candlelight vigil that will be held at 8 p.m. T-shirts, adorned with the words, “One Island Pleasure Island Relief Fund,” also will be available. All goods are available in exchange for donation.

“People can come down, join us, hug us, sing with us, and let those people affected by this know they care, ” MacKay says. “After the announcement of this vigil, it started to feel like something to look forward to in a healing way. We are very fortunate to live in such a beautiful place, amongst such wonderful people. There are three towns on this island but we really are one island, one community of people.”

While monies collected from the event will funnel directly into the relief fund, donations already have been coming in. Last week alone, nearly $50,000 had been raised. Initially, organizers for the event set a tentative goal for $100,000, but they quickly realized that amount wouldn’t meet the pressing needs of rebuilding the lives of so many people.

“[We need] community support, those affected were not from here initially. They moved here and adopted us as their community; they were involved and invested here. The ladies lost walked their dogs at the [Carolina Beach Lake] regularly, went to church here, and had many friends. I hope to see the whole lake lit up with candles and the air filled with music that night just to show them our support.”


Caroling and Candlelight Vigil

Carolina Beach Lake Park
Fri., Dec. 19 and 6:30 p.m. • Free

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