Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
June 10, 2021
The Geauga County community is mourning the loss of three residents who perished in a Huntsburg Township house fire last Saturday including a Kenston High School graduate. Three others escaped from the burning house at 11200 Clay St., according to reports.
Authorities said that Huntsburg residents Jordan Weaver, 20 and her brother Joshua Weaver, 16, died in the fire along with her fiancé Mitchell Sotera, 20, of Atwater Township. They were found inside the house by firefighters, according to reports.
Parents Harvey and Becky Weaver and one other child escaped from the burning house, officials said. They were transported to University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center.
Area residents remember Mr. Sotera, a 2019 graduate of Kenston, as a starting defensive lineman on the 2018 State Championship Football Team.
“Mitch embodied everything that a Kenston football player is. He was a hard-working, blue-collar kid that earned everything he got and always put the team first,” said Kenston High School football coach Jeff Grubich. “He was selfless and at the end of the day was just a big, gentle, kind bear.”
The call came in at about 7:10 a.m. on June 5, according to the Middlefield Fire Department, with a report of victims possibly trapped inside the house. Hambden, Montville, Windsor and Burton fire departments provided mutual aid in the blaze that destroyed the structure.
“The fire was under control within 45 minutes, and they had the fire knocked down and searches had already been completed,” Middlefield fire Capt. Tony Yeropoli said. “There were six people that were home at the time and three people were able to exit the home on their own. There were three fatalities that were unable to exit.”
According to initial reports, the fire may have started in the lower-level living room of the split-level house. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.
Jordan Weaver and Mr. Sotera were both juniors at Bethany College where they met two years ago. She was a biology/biochemistry major and a member of Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority. Mr. Sotera was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity, on the football team and a biochemistry major with plans to become a teacher, according to a statement by college officials.
Darrin Sotera told the Times that his son loved all of his Kenston teammates and friends, adding that Mitchell had the biggest heart of any kid he had ever known.
“He had an infectious smile and was always happy,” Mr. Sotera said. “He is a great kid, and a lot of people miss him.”
Mr. Grubich said Mitchell Sotera was dedicated to the Kenston team. “I would find him up here working out and putting that extra work in, and he worked his way into being one of the best nose tackles we have had here at Kenston.
“My son is in second grade, and he looked up to Mitch, and as big as he was, and as intimidating as he was with the full beard and everything as a high school kid, he was very easygoing, very approachable and was willing to help the younger guys,” Mr. Grubich said.
Kenston High School Wrestling Coach Ricky Deubel remembers Mitchell as a determined, hard worker for the wrestling team.
“He just showed by example always working and never complaining,” Mr. Deubel said. “He was a mentor to some of the kids on the team that are on still the team now.”
Mr. Grubich said Mitchell played the game the right way because his attitude was contagious to his teammates.
“He was the ultimate football player and he was a heck of an individual player,” said Mr. Grubich. “That is why this one hurts so much because he was well loved by all his teammates, parents and the community.”
The probe into the fire continues. “The cause and origin is currently under investigation by our department, the Geauga County Fire Investigative Unit and the Ohio Fire Marshall’s Office,” Mr. Yeropoli said.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the families pay for funeral expenses. To donate, please visit https://gofund.me/c2e48cde.