Tragic end­ing to Co­ley’s Point fire

Cou­ple per­ishes de­spite hus­band’s heroic ef­fort to save his wife

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER THE COM­PASS

The driver of the car could likely see smoke bil­low­ing from his house as he drove along Neck Road on the af­ter­noon of Wed­nes­day, Nov. 21.

The black, thick cloud was es­cap­ing from ev­ery crevice of his 30-year-old home on Co­ley’s Point.

Shocked by what he saw, the el­derly man ap­pears to have brought his beige Pon­tiac Sun­fire to an abrupt halt in front of his white bun­ga­low, and fran­ti­cally raced in­side, know­ing his long­time wife was in peril.

In what many have de­scribed as a show of hero­ics, ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice and de­vo­tion, the man en­tered the in­ferno.

Un­for­tu­nately, there was no happy end­ing as hus­band and wife suc­cumbed to the smoke in­vad­ing their lungs.

They were mere feet from the front door, and the life-sav­ing cool, fresh air they so des­per­ately needed. The woman was found in her chair, while the hus­band had col­lapsed by her side.

“It was prob­a­bly only an arm and a leg, and he was out­side the door,” said Lt. Rick Ed­munds of the Bay Roberts Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment.

Up to late last week, the iden­ti­ties of the two vic­tims had not been re­leased to the pub­lic.

A tragedy

In a so­ci­ety where di­vorce is be­com­ing more preva­lent, their love was some­thing unique, say those close to them. It was an ex­am­ple of a de­vo­tion that tran­scended life it­self.

Both had just turned 80 years-ofage, and the woman had been liv­ing with Alzheimer’s disease for about two years. The hus­band, with the help of a home­care worker, con­stantly doted on his wife, it’s been said.

“It’s cer­tainly a tragedy,” said Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood.

The fire is thought to have started be­tween 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., and ap­pears to have orig­i­nated in the kitchen. It did not spread be­yond the kitchen, but the en­tire home was filled with in­tense smoke.

A lit­tle af­ter two the first call was made to the fire de­part­ment. Mo­ments later, Chief Clarence Rus­sell, who lives nearby, was on the scene.

Mov­ing quickly and en­tirely on in­stinct, Rus­sell tried to en­ter the build­ing, but was beaten back by

“It’s cer­tainly not easy on the fam­ily and you feel for the fire­fight­ers. Es­pe­cially

at this time of year.”

the smoke and heat.

Rus­sell moved to the side door near the kitchen be­cause he heard glass pop­ping un­der the in­tense heat.

“I had noth­ing on but my jacket and it was the safest door,” he said. “I went in the length of my­self and had to come back out again. There was too much smoke and heat.”

Ef­forts to re­vive

When fire­fight­ers ar­rived mo­ments later, their first pri­or­ity was to evac­u­ate the cou­ple, Ed­munds ex­plained.

Emer­gency re­spon­ders spent the next 25-30 min­utes try­ing to re­vive them, but were un­suc­cess­ful.

Rus­sell com­mended his fire­fight­ers and po­lice of­fi­cers for the work they did in try­ing to re­sus­ci­tate the vic­tims.

“They really gave their all,” he said. “We ex­hausted ev­ery­thing we had.”

Wood said the tragedy was “hard on the com­mu­nity.”

“It’s cer­tainly not easy on the fam­ily and you feel for the fire­fight­ers,” he said. “Es­pe­cially at this time of year.”

Wood praised the work of his town’s first re­spon­ders.

“They tried to do as much as they could,” he said. “I would’ve liked to see a dif­fer­ent out­come.”

In­ves­ti­ga­tors were on the scene late last week and the mat­ter is still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/the Com­pass

A fire in­spec­tor (left) and Bay Roberts Fire Chief Clarence Rus­sell sur­vey dam­age to a home on Neck Road in Co­ley’s Point late last week. An el­derly cou­ple per­ished in the in­ci­dent.

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