Oneida Family Presumed Dead After House Fire
The worst fears of a community were confirmed Thursday afternoon when officials said at least two people died in a fire in a house on the Oneida of the Thames First Nation.
At a news conference, it was announced the bodies of an adult and a child were found in the home on Townline Rd. Three other young members of the family are still unaccounted for but are presumed dead.
“There is an anthropologic forensic investigator on site. He has identified two remains and continues to go through the wreckage to search for and identify the remaining,” said Oneida Chief Randall Phillips.
Firefighters arrived at the home on Townline Rd. around 11am on Wednesday to find it engulfed in flames. Cold temperatures and winter weather conditions hampered their efforts to douse the blaze.
It’s believed the 43-year-old father and four children, aged three-months-old to seven-years- old, were killed in the fire.
“This loss is tremendous in a tight-knit community such as ours, and we are only starting to grasp the reality of what has happened,” said Phillips.
Grief counsellors are at the local community centre, brought in to help the community of roughly 1,300 cope with the loss.
Kristen Ireland said the man killed in the fire was her brother, Kurt Antone. She said the mother of the family had left to go shopping Wednesday morning while the rest of the family slept.
“They were amazing, they were the most precious thing you could ever have in your life,” said Ireland.
While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, Phillips suggests the age of the home could have been a factor in how quickly the flames spread.
“First Nations housing is in a crisis. The particular property that was engulfed was an older property and it was just basically kindling,” said Phillips.
He voiced frustration with the federal government, which earlier this year rejected a proposal that could have seen homes on the Oneida First Nation upgraded.
“The federal government announced a whole bunch of money for housing and housing repairs. We followed their process, we put in a proposal, we were rejected on that proposal,” said Phillips. “We had put in for upgrades for 50 houses. That might have been one of the houses that was on that list but we were denied that funding.”
Donations, monetary and clothing, are being accepted for the Doxtator Antone Family at the Oneida Administration Office.