Three children die in Shuswap cabin fire

EAGLE BAY - An early morning fire turned a summer vacation into a family nightmare when a fire at a lakeside cabin took the lives of three children.

A 14-year-old boy, his 10-year-old sister and a 14-year-old female cousin were sleeping in a small cabin at 4145 Eagle Bay Rd. when the fire broke out early Thursday morning.

A property search lists the owner of the cabin as Kim Collier of Vancouver. Reports indicated two of the children are from Kamloops. The third is believed to be from the Vancouver area.

Collier is a former Kamloops resident who is part of Vancouver's Electric Company Theatre. She is slated to direct a play in Kamloops this fall. She and spouse Jonathon Young own a home in Vancouver, and have a daughter, Azra.

Columbia Shuswap Regional District fire co-ordinator Jack Blair said the first report of a structure fully engulfed in flame came in at 1:37 a.m.

Members of the community's volunteer fire department were on the scene within five minutes and were told people were in the cabin. By then it was already too late to save those inside, said Blair.

He said the parents were asleep in another cabin on the same property when the fire broke out.

Salmon Arm resident Jordan Lepp was driving home from a friend's house when he came across the blazing cabin, with flames 10 metres in the air. Friends who passed by 10 minutes earlier saw nothing, he said.

"We came around the corner and there was a glow of flames and ash dropping on the road."

Lepp said the small cabin, about 16 metres from the main cabin, was "fully engulfed and flames were all around it."

His friend called 911 and Lepp ran across the road to alert his uncle, who has property there.

When he returned to the fire "a lady ran out and said 'what do I do?''"

He said the woman, who appeared to be in shock, said her child was in the cabin.

Darlene Clough, Lepp's aunt, said she was stunned when she answered the knock at her door and saw the fire.

"The flames were 150 to 200 feet high," Clough said. "They were very high. It was a very large fire."

Her first thought was she and her husband would have to evacuate. Ash and sparks were raining down on the dry grass and trees, she said.

When news of the tragedy spread, Clough decided to lend a hand. She asked a volunteer if anyone was with the parents. No one was.

The parents were sitting on a neighbour's doorstep. Clough took them blankets and water and comforted them as best she could.

Clough cried as she remembered sitting with the mother, who she identified as Kim Collier, and hugged and rocked her.

"They were in shock. They really didn't want to talk," she said.

"It's sad. It's very sad for the family."

John Spink has a cabin across the street from the fire. He said his family has been there for generations, as have the Colliers.

The first thing Spink did when he saw the fire was grab a garden hose and spray the nearby grass and trees. The fire at the cabin was simply too big, he said.

"It was a big fireball of ash and cinders up in the sky," said Spink.

He said the entire community is in shock. The last time he saw the three children they were playing on the lake.

"It was nice to see kids have a nice time out there," said Spink.

The blaze destroyed another small cabin onsite, which was vacant.

Blair undertook a preliminary investigation. As of Thursday afternoon he was awaiting the arrival of RCMP investigators from the Lower Mainland.

Firefighters returned to the scene late in the afternoon after strong winds caused hot spots to flair up.

A small memorial was placed on a corner of the property near a line of yellow police tape. It was made up of flowers and a child's painting of a lake with mountains in the background.

The cause of the blaze is not yet known.

© Copyright 2018 Kamloops Daily News