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Fire Claims Life of Boy in Middlebourne

By Staff | Feb 1, 2017

MIDDLEBOURNE – Lawrence and Tiffany Evans’ family have searched for meaning in the wake of a tragic fire that killed their 9-year-old son Hunter Wiley and destroyed their home.

“We are dealing with it one minute at a time with the support of family and friends,” Tiffany Evans said.

The fire was reported around 11:05 p.m. on Jan. 24 in the family’s attic at 1970 Goldring Road near Middlebourne, according to Tyler County dispatchers.

Lawrence “Junior” Evans, Hunter’s stepfather, vividly recalled what happened that fateful night.

“Around 9 p.m., the boys had their shower,” he said. “We sent them to brush their teeth and go to bed. Our 3-year old, Wyatt, wouldn’t go to bed, so Tiff and I were sitting on the couch trying to get him to sleep. Around 10:55 p.m., we smelled a strange smell, so I went to the basement to check the wood stove. It was almost out. I yelled up and told Tiff it was not the stove. She went to the stairs to check on the boys when the oldest boy (Shane) jumped half way down the stairs and rolled the rest of the way yelling it’s on fire.”

Time sped up as the family’s nightmare unfolded.

“Tiff yelled for me. I ran up and put a small fire out that was there when Shane came down,” Junior Evans said. “I then ran up to get Hunter, but the heat and smoke was extreme. I yelled for him, but he never responded. I ran to the bathroom soaked a towel wrapped my face and tried again to get to Hunter. But it was just too much heat and smoke.”

Dad didn’t stop, but kept trying and trying to save his son.

“I went outside, climbed onto the roof and busted the window,” he said. “Smoke rolled out the window, so I went back to the stairs hoping I could get to him, but it was no use. I sent Tiff outside with the other two boys. I grabbed a chain saw and tried to cut the floor out under his bed by this time the heat and smoke had filled the whole house. I got so much smoke I had to leave.”

The family watched helplessly at the flames and smoke that would change their lives forever.

“When the roof blew out into flames, I knew I could not get to him,” Junior Evans said. “At this point, we had to wait helpless until the fire department and rescue workers arrived.”

Six local fire departments battled the blaze and later found the boy’s body. The fire is under investigation by the West Virginia Fire Marshal’s Office and the sheriff’s department. According to the state Fire Marshal’s office, the cause of Tuesday’s fatal fire is undetermined as yet and is still under investigation.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Junior Evans said the family is still trying to come to grips with the tragedy. Hunter’s older brother, 10-year-old Shane grasps what happened, but his younger brother, 3-year-old Wyatt, does not, he said.

A family video shows Hunter smiling as he helps Wyatt maneuver a 2-speed green toy tractor outside on a sunny day. Junior Evans and his wife have questioned why God could allow something so tragic happen to such a nice little boy.

“Tiff still asks ‘why him’, but we have to embrace our faith in god, family and friends,” he said. “That’s all we have left.”

Tiffany Evans spoke of her young son, a fourth grade student at Sistersville Elementary.

“Hunter was a fun loving boy who loved to hunt, fish, and camp,” she said. “He was very inquisitive, he was full of questions, he liked school but hated the work.”

The family home was totally destroyed by the fire.

“We lost everything and right now the only thing we need is prayers,” Tiffany Evans said. “This community has been very generous.”

Not only is the American Red Cross is assisting the Evans’ family, but so is the Tyler County community.

Family members have set up a GoFundMe page to help Hunter’s parents. Donations will be used for funeral expenses and to help family members “get back on their feet,” according to the page.

As of Tuesday, the page has raised $13,335 – a figure that does not even count any funds that have been donated to an account set up at Long Reach Credit Union in Middlebourne.

A fundraiser for the family is scheduled for between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Wildcats’ Den in Paden City. In addition to getting a chance to meet famous cartoon figures like Mickey Mouse, there will be food, raffles, a Chinese auction and much more. Other fundraisers are planned.

Junior Evans said the family is surprised at the community’s outpouring of support

“It has made us believe in humanity again,” he said. “All the thoughts and prayers came not only from friends and family, but from complete strangers. People wanting to help in anyway they can.”

Junior Evans explained that West Virginia is a special place to live “because of the support.

“People have no idea how much it means to us.”