The mother of a child killed in a house fire west of Edmonton over the weekend says she is grateful for the support her family has received from people during a time of profound sadness.
“We’ve had a huge outpour of support and wanted to thank you all,” Shannon Dorward posted on Facebook on Monday night.
Dorward said Ryley Heatherington, the youngest of her twins, was the boy who died at her rural home in Parkland County on Sunday afternoon.
“In the evening, around suppertime, our family experienced the scariest, most life-changing event anyone can,” she wrote. “We were cooking supper — boys playing — when the smoke alarm goes off. I went to wave smoke away when we noticed our playroom couch at the front of the house on fire.
“With flames growing and very little reaction time, we got Alyxander and Xxavier out and put them into the safety of the vehicle stat.”
But Dorward wrote that Ryley was nowhere to be found.
“By the time the other two were strapped in, the flames grew, exploding the window,” she wrote. “It is with the deepest sadness that we have to announce our baby didn’t make it out and unfortunately wasn’t able to be resuscitated once crews arrived.”
RCMP told Global News on Sunday that fire crews from Parkland County were called to Range Road 264, south of Highway 16 in the Acheson area, around 5:50 p.m.
They said a three-year-old’s body was found inside the home located between Edmonton and Spruce Grove, but that nobody else was injured. Police said they had not yet established what caused the fire.
Global News spoke to Kayla Rockwood on Monday. She said she is a friend of the family and started a GoFundMe page to help the family pay for Ryley’s funeral and other expenses.
“I’ve been a mess… I can’t even explain the feeling,” she said on Tuesday. “But doing what I’ve been doing is keeping my brain busy and is giving Shannon one less thing to think about and worry about. It’s rewarding.
“It’s gratifying to see the community come together and everybody help out.”
Rockwood said the family is staying with a relative and plans to move to a new home so she is collecting clothing, toys, and other items to help them with the transition.
“It’s restoring my faith in humanity to see community support come through,” she said, adding that experiencing a tragedy in the middle of a pandemic makes everything that much harder.
Rockwood said it’s believed Ryley was scared when the fire broke out and tried to hide “so they could not find him.”
“What they went through in those moments, I wish I could have been there… one extra set of eyes, hands,” she said, adding that she is grateful the rest of the family made it out alive.
“It’s so heartbreaking,” she said.
“Everyone could have lost their life that day.”
Rockwood described Ryley as “the sweetest, funniest, most loving child.”
“He was loved, so loved,” she said.
Dorward described Ryley as a huge piece of her heart.
“Each boy has their own special bond with us, but anyone who met Ryley knew how silly, sweet and incredibly smart he was,” she wrote.
“We will miss you forever Ryley, but will never forget you/always honour you.”
–With files from Sarah Komadina, Global News