MARION COUNTY, Ore (NewsNation Now) — Relatives are trying to understand the events that led to the deaths of a boy, his grandmother and the family dog as a wildfire consumed their Oregon home earlier this week.
Deputies said they found the remains of 13-year-old Wyatt Tofte and 71-year-old Peggy Mosso inside of a vehicle on North Fork Road in the Santiam Canyon near Lyons.
Search and rescuers had been looking for Wyatt since he ran from his home as the Beachie Creek Fire approached on Tuesday afternoon, according to a family member.
Family members told NewsNation affiliate KOIN the power had gone out earlier at the house and Wyatt’s dad had left to try and find a generator so he wasn’t home when the fire reached their home. Wyatt’s mom Angie Mosso woke up to fire surrounding their home with no way out.
Wyatt’s mom, Angie Mosso, helped her elderly mother — who was ailing from a broken leg — into the car. But the tires were burning.
“The flames were all around it and around the car,” said Wyatt’s great aunt, Mary Tofte.
“If I was in that situation and I thought it was life or death, I would tell my child to run,” said another great aunt named Susan Vaslev.
At about the same time, Wyatt’s dad Chris Tofte was desperately trying to reach his family. He blew past road blocks as he traveled toward his home.
Chris came upon a woman crawling along the road, but didn’t recognize her. He stopped for her but was frantic to continue on and rescue his family.
“He helps her into the car and then he’s saying, ‘I’m really sorry but I’ve got to keep going because my family is up there,’” said Susan. “He said, ‘I got to get up to my son and my wife.’”
That’s when the woman, who was badly burned, whispered that she was his wife.
Chris drove Angie back to a checkpoint and handed her off to paramedics. Then he drove back into the inferno to look for his son. But his efforts were in vain.
Deputies with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office found Wyatt’s remains, along with the remains of his grandmother and dog, after clearing a path through a charred hellscape the next morning. They were found inside the family car.
“He got in there and tried to drive the car and started coming down the hill and then went off to the side for some reason,” Susan said. “I guess all the tires were just burned up and everything, the pavement was so hot.”
Susan said Wyatt was found with his dog Duke in his lap — a fact that has brought some small amount of comfort to those who loved him.
But it’s not enough to combat the profound grief that comes with such a tragic loss.
“It just breaks my heart, the outcome,” Mary said. “It was just horrible.”
A GoFundMe page has been created to help Angie recover from critical burns and assist the family.
“Angie is a saint. She was always there to help everybody and loved her mom so much,” said Susan.
Two other people have died in the Beachie Creek Fire, officials said Friday evening, bringing the death toll from that fire to four. Ten people are still missing.
NewsNation affiliate KOIN contributed to this report.