“Sorry, dude. I love you, man. I never thought I would die this way.” These were the final words 14-year-old Joe Phillips left on his friend’s voicemail, after getting trapped inside a burning tire recycling plant in Lockport, New York. The fire had been set by the boys, just minutes earlier, but rapidly grew out of control. Still suffering grief from the incident, the surviving boy, now 14, was sentenced April 25 to a year’s probation and ordered to receive in-patient treatment at WNY Children's Psychiatric Center, according to Buffalo’s WKBW.
While the boys had intentionally set the fire last August—the kind of stupid mischief teenagers have no trouble getting into—they certainly didn’t mean for it to burn four buildings to the ground in a fire that would rage for three days. They certainly didn’t mean for it to cost one of them their life. “I’m really stuck,” Phillips is heard yelling over the phone to his friend. “Dude, I’m [expletive]. I’m [expletive] going to die.”
The surviving boy had ran off to get water to extinguish the blaze, which had quickly spread from an abandoned building at High Tread International Recycling. Video on his phone, obtained by WIVB, shows the boys sneaking into the building and starting the fire, feeding it with discarded pieces of paper. "This is how you make, like, a real big fire," one of the boys is heard saying at one point.
Since the fire and his friend’s death, the surviving boy has been in a deep depression, according to his attorney Angelo DiMillo, “It’s certainly going to be a burden he’s going to bear the rest of his life,” the lawyer said in an interview with PEOPLE Magazine. Joe Phillips’ parents attended the sentencing Tuesday, holding a framed photograph of their son. "I just thought that Joseph should be here because they talk about him, and they talk badly about him," his mother, Ann Phillips said, according to the Associated Press. "He was a good kid," his father Mark added.