The three teen-agers were walking to the Beacon Mall along Rte. 1 south of Alexandria when they stopped at the abandoned white house with the peeling paint.
"No particular reason," Richard White, 17, said yesterday. "We were just passing through." He said they horsed around awhile -- broke a window, kicked some loose boards on the porch.
Chopping his hands through the air, White described what happened next: "The ceiling went like this -- boom!" Several hundred pounds of debris rained down on the three youths, trapping them at the house at 5950 Richmond Hwy., in the Huntington section of Fairfax County.
The Thursday night accident killed Albert E. McCallum, 16, of Alexandria, and injured White and Brian Pack, 14, both of Alexandria.
White said he was buried up to his arms. "Brian was saying: 'We're going to die, we're going to die.' Albert said: 'Help me, Richard.' " White said he struggled and extricated himself in about 15 or 20 minutes.
"If you'd seen it, you wouldn't believe I got out of there," he said. He ran across Richmond Highway (Rte. 1) and smashed his hand through a motel window in an effort to summon help. He was screaming so loudly when rescuers arrived, White said, one ambulance driver told him: "We thought you were a madman."
Rescuers had to use machinery to extract the other two youths. McCallum was prounounced dead at the scene. Pack and White were treated at Mount Vernon Hospital for minor injuries and released.
Smoking a cigarette as he sat in the darkened living room of his parents' semi-detached brick house, White said yesterday he and the other two youths had been friends for about a year and a half. They spent time together at shopping malls, a skating rink and the local pool. McCallum, who like White was not in school, was planning a trip to California this summer, White said.
"He was quiet until he spoke his piece," White said. "You could say he was funny. We got along great."
White said he had been at the abandoned house only once before, but knew it well because his father had painted it years earlier. White said the house had been vacant for four or five years.
It was bought about a year ago by Huntington Gateway Partnership, which is planning to build 443 apartments and a small shopping center, according to Ray F. Smith, a partner in the venture. "There's nothing you can say that doesn't make it happen," Smith said. "I'm very sorry."
He said the house had been locked up, but not posted with "no trespassing" signs, because "We didn't think it was a problem." Friday, the house was boarded up and signs were posted.
"They should have done something before somebody died," said Richard White's mother, Catherine.
"I don't know how you can stop someone from going up there," Smith said.