Mother describes anguish of toddler's death in Alberta house fire

·3 min read

The mother of a three-year-old boy who died in a house fire west of Edmonton on Sunday says her son hid from the flames, preventing the family from saving him in time.

As Shannon Dorward and her partner Stuart Heatherington scrambled to save their three boys from a fire in their home, they couldn't find Ryley.

In a message to CBC News on Tuesday, a grieving Dorward said a firefighter at the scene told her Ryley was later found near the front door, hiding in a nook under the stairs.

He died at the scene.

"It was really hard to hear because the fire started in the room next to the front door where he was hiding," Dorward wrote.

"He definitely hid, that's why we couldn't grab him and go."

'Nowhere to be found'

Dorward said she and Heatherington had been enjoying a quiet night at their family home in Acheson.

In a Facebook post detailing the tragedy, Dorward said she was in the kitchen cooking dinner.

She could hear their three boys — Alyxander and twins, Xxavier and Ryley — playing in the other room. Then the smoke alarm went off.

Dorward went to wave the smoke away when she realized the couch in the playroom at the front of the house was on fire.

Panicked, she and Heatherington pulled Alyxander and Xxavier from danger and ran outside with them. As they worked to strap the two boys into their car seats, the fire spread rapidly.

But Ryley was nowhere to be found.

The front window of the home shattered.

Dorward described it as the most terrifying moment of her life.

"Our baby Ryley was nowhere to be found and by the time the other two were strapped in the flames grew, exploding the window," Dorward 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."

Parkland RCMP, local fire and emergency personnel were called to the home around 6 p.m., police said in a news release late Sunday.

As crews worked to extinguish the fire, police and firefighters searched the home and nearby property before finding the boy.

Ryley was given first aid but couldn't be saved. The cause of the fire has not been determined and police have said no further details will be released as the investigation continues.

Shannon Dorward/Facebook
Shannon Dorward/Facebook

A family friend has started a GoFundMe page to help the family deal with funeral expenses and the loss of their home.

Dorward said the family is taking solace in the outpouring of community support. But she feels hollow with grief as she makes funeral arrangements, like a piece of her heart is missing, she said.

Dorward said Ryley, Xxavier's twin brother, was a vibrant and beautiful child.

'Silly, sweet, and incredibly smart'

"Ryley was the youngest twin and was honestly a huge piece to my heart," Dorward said.

"Each boy has their own special bond with us but anyone who met Ryley knew how silly, sweet, and incredibly smart he was.

"We will miss you forever Ryley but will never forget you, always honour you. Please send your mama and daddy signs baby, we will always be looking."

Shannon Dorward/Facebook
Shannon Dorward/Facebook