Family of Four Loses 14-Year-Old Son While Trying to Outrun Deadly California Wildfire

October 17, 2017
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At least one member of a family of four had died while the rest continued to fight for their lives after attempting to escape the deadly California wildfires, which had now claimed 40.

Family of Four Loses 14-Year-Old Son While Trying to Outrun Deadly California Wildfire

Jon, Sara and their 17-year-old daughter Kressa Shepherd are all currently recovering from their injuries in different hospitals and remain sedated and unaware of the death of 14-year-old Kai Shepherd, who died just about 50 feet away from them near their Mendocino County home, according to the Associated Press.

“We will have some terrible news to break,” Sara’s sister Mindi Ramos told The Los Angeles Times. “We have been advised not to volunteer the tragic information. Until they ask, we don’t tell them.”


Neighbor Paul Hanssen also spoke to the L.A. Times, saying that after he first saw the fire had spread to the neighborhood, he called Jon to warn him. “I woke Jon up and told him there was a fire and he needs to get ready to leave and that I would call him if we needed to evacuate.”

The Shepherds reportedly tried to drive themselves to safety, but their cars caught fire as they were driving down the mountain they lived on. They were forced to get out and attempt to escape on foot, according to the AP.

Sara and Kressa were saved by Hanssen, who survived the flames by locking himself in a metal trailer along with his dog and a hose which was filled with water, reported the AP. Hours later — after the fire passed — Hanssen left his trailer and went to the Shephard’s house, where he found Sara and Kressa on the ground, badly burned.

After he called 911, Hanssen “got water for them from their water heater and squeezed it into their mouths with a towel,” Sara’s sister Mindi Ramos told the L.A. Times. “He held them when they got cold. He assured them that help was coming. Kressa told him, ‘I just want to go to the hospital now.’ ”

Hanssen also asked them if they knew where Kai and Jon were, but “they both said they didn’t know,” Hanssen told the L.A. Times.

Just before the paramedics arrived, Hanssen found Kai’s body and later, along with another neighbor, Efren Turner, they covered him with a sheet. “We paused a moment with our hands on him, speaking solemnly, and praying for him,” added Hanssen. “We didn’t feel right leaving him alone on the road up there. But the coroner/sheriff was there to get him within an hour.”

While Sara and Kressa didn’t know where Jon was, first responders found him separately, also badly burned, but alive, reported the AP.

Although Jon suffered from burns over 45 percent of his body, Ramos told the L.A. Times “there was no muscle damage” and that doctors “have 100 percent confidence in his full recovery.”

Sara and Kressa — who both suffered burns over 60 percent of their bodies — are also expected to recover. Sara suffered burn damage to her hands and legs and Kressa’s legs had to be amputated below the knee. Ramos also added that Kressa’s face was badly burned although “there was no muscle damage to her face…so there is enough structure to rebuild.”

“It will be a blessing to us if Kressa retains her eyesight and hands,” she added.

The Shepherds did not have fire insurance due to the remote location of their house — which they built and called their dream home, reported the AP — so Ramos launched a fundraising campaign for them to help pay for rebuilding and medical costs.

…live in the moment…

Viral: Family Told Three-Year-Old With Mind of Baby Won’t Change. But Dad Knows One Thing Wipes out Every Worry

Growing up could be a difficult, yet happy, time for any child. Watching them grow up and learn is rewarding for any parent.

But for special need children, while it is still a happy time, it could be much more difficult than others. It could be extremely stressful on parents, and they might need a little extra help.
For Emily McCormack and her family, it might be even worse. Emily has Global Developmental Delay (GDD), which means that she is unable to sit up on her own, walk, talk, or do much else on her own.

Her parents, Robert and Nikki McCormack, had been putting her in a walker that allows her to stand while being held. It’s also supposed to help train her to walk, but she hasn’t been progressing.

Emily is 3 years old, and at her age, she should be doing all of those things easily and on her own. But her mind has not developed past the age of 3 months, so she is entirely dependent on her parents to support her.

In a recent pediatrician visit, Robert asked about any further development and the doctor said that the most they’d see is “what [they] do now and anything else is a bonus.” This was a tough blow, even though they knew about her condition and what it meant, they “got swept up in that hope” that she might eventually progress, even just a little.

There’s no hard-set life expectancy for children with GDD. The McCormacks have met children around 11 and 12 years old, but have not heard of adults with the condition.

But what keeps Robert and Nikki going is Emily’s “infectious giggles.” When she laughs, all worry “goes out the window” for them.

They say they try not to think about the future, because it’s much easier to live in the moment and love Emily and her sister, Mia, with everything they have. Their daughter Mia does not have GDD.

That’s a wonderful way of looking at the situation they’ve been given. Emily sure looks happy in that cute family of hers!

The couple got married in March, and with some help from the Jack and Jill Foundation and LauraLynn Children’s Hospice, Emily got to go to her parents’ wedding. How fortunate she is to have such loving parents!

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