'He tugged at your heart': St. George mourns loss of Davey Boyd and family after fire
"Davey" Boyd, an honorary member of the St. George Fire Department, beamed with pride Tuesday morning as he stood in uniform beside three firefighters during the unveiling of the southwestern New Brunswick town's new fire truck.
By lunchtime, firefighters from St. George and at least four neighbouring communities were battling a blaze at the home Boyd shared with his two brothers and their elderly mother, who cared for them.
The bodies of three men and a woman were discovered inside the home after the fire, leaving the tight-knit community of about 1,500 people heartbroken.
Foul play is not suspected in the deaths, RCMP say.
Autopsies were conducted Wednesday morning in Saint John on the four victims, Const. Isabelle Beaulieu told CBC News.
"At this point, foul play is not suspected in their deaths, but it's still under investigation," she said.
The investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing, Beaulieu said. She expected to have more information later in the day, but as of 6:30 p.m., none had been released.
The names of the victims have not been officially released by police, but CBC News learned the house at 25 South St. was owned by Esther Boyd, David Bruce Boyd, Robert Brian Boyd and William Boyd.
Area residents say Esther Boyd was in her 80s and had been taking care of her three sons, believed to be in their 40s to late-50s, since her husband died more than 30 years ago.
"She did have a lot of challenges, you know, a lot in her home to deal with, and she never complained. You would never know it," said Mary Leigh LeBlanc.
"Everybody respected her in the community.
"We're going to really miss her and we love her and there is a place in heaven for her and all of those boys."
LeBlanc's husband, Daniel LeBlanc, the owner of Independent Grocer, described Boyd as a "true blue."
"She never had nothing bad to say about anything," said LeBlanc, who picked her up every Saturday at 7 a.m., before the store opened, to get her groceries, and then drove her home in his truck, just like the owner before him did.
'We never missed one Saturday for as long as I can remember, since before I started working here, and I started when I was 13," said LeBlanc.
The thought of not picking her up this Saturday is "heart-wrenching," he said.
"I just feel so bad, but I know she probably wouldn't want it any other way — that everybody went the same time —because that was a concern of hers. She always said, 'I don't know what would happen to my boys.'"
'Like a little brother'
The St. George Fire Department requested more time Wednesday before making a statement on the loss of Davey Boyd, who was just recognized in December for 40 years of honorary service.
The town's new fire truck now bears her son's name: David B. Boyd 1961-2017. "A nice, lasting tribute," Dwayne Richards posted under a photo of the truck on the town's Facebook page.
"Very fitting," commented Elizabeth Myles Stackhouse.
The firefighters are still shaken and distraught, town staff told CBC News. People have been dropping off homemade soup, sandwiches, cookies and pies for them.
Boyd was like a little brother to the firefighters, and helped keep the trucks "shiny and clean," said Cecily Stewart and Courtney Dodd, who were still close to tears themselves.
Stewart and Dodd both work at The Birch Grove Restaurant, which Boyd visited every day at 1:30 p.m., regardless of the weather.
"Davey came faithfully every day" and would have celebrated his 56th birthday on Saturday, said Stewart. He liked hamburgers, french fries and gravy, she said.
"The girls yesterday, I wasn't working, but they did get the call yesterday [about the fatal fire] just about the time that he would have arrived for his lunch."
On Wednesday, the restaurant had white flowers in a vase at Boyd's regular table, No. 13, along with a "reserved" sign and photograph of him in uniform. It will remain reserved in his memory for three days, said Stewart.
"He was always pleasant, happy … There wasn't anything you could say about Davey that wasn't great," said Stewart.
"He tugged at your heart," she said. "If he trusted you, he loved you. In return, I guess we loved him too."
Boyd "absolutely loved his community," said Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West MLA Rick Doucet.
"This is pretty devastating for something like this to happen," said Doucet.
"It's sad and very difficult for a small community."
Town staff said they believe a memorial service may be held outside to accommodate everyone.
Doucet said he knew something was wrong when he heard the sirens from the local fire trucks that were racing down South Street. When he got to the scene, he described it as "surreal."
He said the Boyds used to own the local hardware store and he has fond memories of going into the store and being greeted by the family.
"It was just a way of life down here," he said.
Mayor Crystal Cook described Tuesday's fire as a "tragedy for the community."
"We lost a beloved family and a loved honorary member of our fire team in St. George for the last 40 years," she said in an email to CBC News.
Cook said the town has received an outpouring of support from residents and surrounding communities.
She said residents are "eternally grateful" to the local fire departments, including St. Stephen, Saint Andrews and Fundy Bay, that also came to help the community on Tuesday.
"Our focus right now is our fire department as they are grieving for one of their own," she said.
"In the coming days it will be a struggle, but I believe as a community and with resources from critical incident debriefing, we will help our members get through the oncoming days."