NEWS

Farmhouse fire victims mourned by their school bus driver

02/26/2015 11:36 EST | Updated 04/28/2015 05:59 EDT
School bus driver Sarah Reimer went to pick up the Froese brothers — Bobby, 16, Timmy, 12, Danny, 10, and Henry, 9 — on Wednesday morning, just like every other weekday.

Only, Wednesday was not like every other day. It was unlike any day Reimer — and most people in the tiny Manitoba community of Kane — have ever had to face.

When Reimer pulled up to the Froese family's house at 7:50 a.m., she was shocked to see it had burned to the ground. Emergency vehicles were on scene but no one from the family, so she moved on.

At the next stop, a student told her the four brothers had died in the blaze.

"I cried the rest of the way to school," Reimer said.

She has driven the boys to and from school in her bus every day for the past three years and said she enjoyed every minute of the daily drive.

"They were awesome boys. They were boys. They were roughnecks, and they were definitely country boys," she said.

"I loved those kids. They were my kids every day. My school bus kids are my kids."

The four boys went to school in the nearby communities of Lowe Farm and Rosenort.

Pauline Lafond-Bouchard, superintendent of the Red River Valley School Division, said crisis response teams were waiting for students when they arrived on Wednesday morning.

Social workers and psychologists will be in the two schools for several days to help students and staff cope with the tragedy, she said.

Father called for help

The fire started at around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday and a call to 911 was placed by the father, Jacob Froese, who was just arriving home from work.

His wife, DoraLee Eberhardt, and three other children were able to escape the blaze — Susanna, 9, Lisa, 5, and William, 2. But heavy smoke and intense heat made it impossible for Bobby, Timmy, Danny, and Henry, trapped in the top floor of the two-storey house, to get out.

Another son, Stephen,18, was not in the home at the time.

The parents are in hospital in Winnipeg, where they are being treated for smoke inhalation.

A family member told CBC News on Thursday morning that Froese was in a coma but is now out of it. He is on heavy drugs to prevent an infection in his lungs from the smoke.

The father had tried in vain to get inside the burning home and rescue his boys.

"Apparently, it's three times he went back into the house — almost couldn't find his way back out," said his brother, Henry Froese Jr.

"And then he tried to get a ladder and start going up the side of the house to get his kids and the ladder just melted from the heat and he collapsed."

He said the family wants to reunite the surviving children, who are staying at a neighbour's home, with their parents before making any funeral arrangements.

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