Family friend reflects on deaths of toddler and her father in northern Alberta house fire
One week after a deadly house fire in a small northern Alberta community claimed the lives of a toddler and her father, a family friend of the victims is speaking out about why they will be missed.
“Every time Nathan was around that child, he called her his little girl… I’ve never seen him so happy,” Michele McCormick told Global News. “He was so incredibly in love with that baby that he wanted to get more [babies].”
The June 15 fire in Plamondon, Alta., claimed the lives of Nathan Payette and his daughter Avery. The girl’s mother, Haley Baker, was taken to hospital and has since been released.
Watch below: (From June 16, 2019) A young Alberta man and toddler have been identified as the two people killed in a house fire in Plamondon early Saturday morning. Sarah Kraus has the details.
“Haley, in terms of being a mom, you couldn’t have asked for a better, beautiful, loving, caring momma and her little girl Avery could light up a room,” McCormick said. “She was absolutely amazing.”
A GoFundMe page, organized by a close family friend to raise money for the funerals, said the family had just moved from Grande Cache to Plamondon days before the deadly blaze.
The GoFundMe organizer said Payette died in the fire while trying to save Avery.
“From what Haley remembers, she got woken up by Nathan saying, ‘There’s a fire, there’s smoke,'” McCormick said. “He told her (Baker) to get on her stomach and crawl to the door but she didn’t make it. And he literally dragged her out. So here is Nathan with his lungs full of smoke, drags his love out, and for what we were told, pretty much pushed her off and away from the front door and he went back in.
“The place was completely on fire,” McCormick said as she fought back tears. “He ran into that baby’s room… to bring his little baby out and they perished together.”
McCormick said she was told what happened in the fire by close family members.
McCormick said Payette was a “mountain of a man,”
View photos and Nathan Payette and his daughter in the gallery below.
“[He] was six-foot-four or six-foot-five… and I think his heart was possibly bigger than that,” she explained.
McCormick said she knew Payette since he was a baby and that he was a good friend of her sons. Together, they travelled to Europe and shared holidays.
“He was funny,” McCormick said. “He had a quiet strength about him.
“One of his biggest pet peeves was if someone was bullying… he would step up and address it.”
She said Payette enjoyed hunting, fishing and dirt-biking, and was in the process of becoming a tattoo artist. She said Avery was a smart girl and like to dance and take selfies.
“She had him wrapped around her baby finger,” McCormick said of Avery’s relationship with her father. “Everyone that knew her, loved her.
The Office of the Fire Commissioner and RCMP continue to investigate. The mayor of Lac La Biche County has told Global News that the fire is not considered suspicious.
While the cause of the fire is not yet known, McCormick said she hopes everyone checks to make sure their smoke detectors in their homes are functioning.
“The entire town [of Grande Cache] is devastated,” McCormick said.
“They can’t really wrap their minds around what really happened on that terrible night.”
McCormick said she hopes the community will rally around Baker and support her in the aftermath of what happened.
“She’s 19 years old. She’s just a baby herself.”
McCormick added that the community is trying to do anything it can to help the family in the wake of the tragedy.
Plamondon is about 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
–With files from Global News’ Emily Mertz
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.