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Family shattered by loss of four young sons

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/2/2015 (849 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MORRIS -- Four brothers died in an overnight fire in a two-storey farmhouse in rural southern Manitoba, despite the efforts of their parents and older brother to save them.

The fire occurred at about 12:30 a.m. near the community of Kane, which is located about 20 kilometres west of Morris on Highway 23.

Timmy (from left), 12, Danny, 10, Henry, 9, and Bobby Froese, 15, did not survive a farmhouse fire near the community of Kane in southern Manitoba.

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Timmy (from left), 12, Danny, 10, Henry, 9, and Bobby Froese, 15, did not survive a farmhouse fire near the community of Kane in southern Manitoba.

A house fire near Kane, Man., proved fatal for four children

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A house fire near Kane, Man., proved fatal for four children

Doralee Eberhardt, 34, was alone with seven of her eight children when the fire started. Her partner, Jake Froese, and the couple's oldest son Steven, 18, who were working a late shift at a manufacturing plant, arrived home to find the home engulfed in flames.

Eberhardt and three children -- an eight-year-old girl, her five-year-old sister and two-year-old brother -- escaped the home and were outside when the father and son arrived. After calling the fire department, Jake attempted to enter the home but was turned back by the intense heat and smoke.

The four boys sleeping on the second floor could not be saved. Family members identified them as Bobby, 15, Timmy, 12, Danny, 10, and Henry, 9.

The boys' grandmother told the Free Press the father and oldest son tried using a ladder, but flames were shooting out of the windows.

"(Jake) tried to get them out. He was going through the window but he couldn’t wake them. The smoke and flames blew him right down," said Beverley Eberhardt.

"He’s at (Health Sciences Centre). I don’t know how he’s doing."

Doralee and Jake suffered from smoke inhalation and were transported to hospital. The surviving children were taken to a neighbour’s home.

Beverley said there is great concern for Jake's health, but her daughter didn't suffer serious injuries.

"Physically, my daughter is OK but mentally she isn’t good," she said.

Beverley said the oldest boy remains in a state of disbelief.

"Steven said he just won’t believe his brothers are gone until he actually sees them," she said. "They’re wonderful boys, very close. They’re together all the time."

Through tears, Beverley briefly described the grandsons she lost.

"Bobby loved reading. Timmy loved computers and his phone, and he was the hunter. He loved hunting with his dad," she said.

"Henry was a little bit shy, much closer to his mom. Danny was the hyper one. You couldn’t keep him down."

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Provincial fire officials were still on scene Wednesday afternoon.

Bernard Schellenberg, the RM of Morris fire chief based in nearby Rosenort, said crews could not perform an active search of the premises due to the heavy smoke and heat.

The 20-member crew, arriving with three trucks and a water tanker, was informed that four boys were sleeping in rooms on the second floor when the fire started.

"When they arrived on scene the (newer) addition had been fully involved and the walls had collapsed," Schellenberg said, adding that members assisted the family that were out of the home as others tried to get the blaze under control.

The tragedy will certainly have an impact with the fire crews.

"When firefighters deal with a tragedy like this, as tough as we seem to (be), we are aching inside for the family," Schellenberg added. Grief and crisis counseling has been made available to fire personnel, the chief added.

There was nothing left standing at the farmhouse site as it smoldered Wednesday morning into the afternoon.

Morris reeve Ralph Groening said it’s too early to determine what support the family will need and what counseling the firefighters will need in the next days and weeks.

"We’ve already received offers -- there’s a home that’s been offered," he said. "The strength of small communities. They’ve been there very quickly. We know the community is willing to provide the support needed to ensure they can as best as possible move on with their lives."

Red River Valley School Division superintendent Pauline Lafond-Bouchard was told at 7:30 a.m. that four children from the Froese family died in the fire, and crisis response teams are at both Lowe Farm and Rosenort schools.

The four children were all in different grades, said Lafond-Bouchard, who said she has never gone through anything like this in her career. "It’s pretty tragic. We’re just trying to support everyone as much as possible.

"(Students and staff) would know the family well," she said.

RM of Morris chief adminstrative officer Larry Driedger said the community has already come together. The Access Credit Union, which has 17 branches across Southern Manitoba, including one in nearby Lowe Farm, has set up a donation account for the family.

Further details on the account and how people can help will be made available on the Morris website (rmofmorris.ca).

-- with files from Jason Bell

Read more by Nick Martin and Adam Wazny.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 10:00 AM CST: Adds comments from reeve.

10:22 AM: Adds quotes from school division spokeswoman.

11:52 AM: Adds photo

2:02 PM: Adds information from neighbour.

2:46 PM: Adds family photo.

3:28 PM: Adds comments from family.

4:15 PM: Adds video

10:57 PM: Adds donation link.

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