The small community of Evanston on the Wyoming side of the Utah border is ringing in the new year mourning the sudden deaths of a pair of young siblings, ages 6 and 3, and an adult family member looking after them who were killed in an early morning house fire Saturday.
When Uinta County Fire and Ambulance responded to a mobile home on Worland Circle in Evanston at about 5:30 a.m., it was already heavily involved with fire, the agency reports.
“Upon arrival, crews encountered heavy fire coming out of the front of the house,” the agency’s report says. “When crews were able to knock down the flames and enter the structure, they found three deceased individuals.”
They have since been identified as Nikolai John-Sanderson, 6, NovaRae John-Sanderson, 3, and Georgine Miller, age not available, said Rick Fryer, deputy coroner for Uinta County who also works at Crandall Funeral Home in town.
While tragedies involving home fires happen sometimes, they never get easier to deal with, said Fryer, who’s been a funeral professional since 1978.
“It’s heartbreaking,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Sunday. “I remember when my children were young. To see a family grieve something like this is very, very difficult.”
Fryer has five children and 14 grandchildren, including two who have died, so he has a sense of what the family of the children and Miller are experiencing.
And in a small, close-knit community like Evanston, Saturday’s tragedy reaches just about everyone, he said.
“Everybody knows everybody for the most part, so everybody’s fielding the pain and the sorrow that goes around that,” Fryer said.
Likely Didn’t Suffer
While just how they died won't be known for sure until after the bodies are examined by a forensic pathologist, Fryer said that in his experience, if the children were asleep when the fire broke out, it’s likely they died in their sleep before flames could get to them.
“When things (like this) happen, people ask questions: What caused the fire? Did they suffer? Things of that nature,” he said. “Just the nature of a fire, if there are children in the home, they probably never knew what happened.”
That’s because the carbon monoxide from the smoke would build up in their blood and cause death before flames could.
“And with a little person, it doesn’t take long,” Fryer said. “They wouldn’t know what happened. On an adult, the same thing is going to happen” only it will take longer.
If You Want To Help
The Evanston Police Department and Uinta County Fire and Ambulance “are beginning an investigation as to the cause of the fire,” according to the press release. Until that’s complete, no other information is being released.
In the meantime, the news of the deaths of Nikolai, NovaRae and Miller is spreading around Evanston on local message boards and social media. There also have been some crowdfunding efforts set up to help the family with funeral expenses.
For now, Fryer urges people to use caution when donating to fundraising efforts for the family and to make sure they’re confident that’s where the money will go.
For now, anyone wanting to help the family can call Crandall Funeral Home in Evanston, 307-789-2860, and give their contact information.
He also said that the family likely won’t face much — if any — burial costs. That’s because “most funeral homes won’t charge for kids” in circumstances like these.
“We are talking hardly any money that the family owes,” Fryer said, adding that the funeral home fielded a number of calls Sunday.
This is a developing story. Cowboy State Daily will report more information as it’s available.