3 Brampton brothers killed in house fire remembered as ‘incredibly kind, always caring’

By Lucas Casaletto and Patricia D'Cunha

A Brampton family issued a statement one day after a devastating house fire killed their three sons, aged 9, 12 and 15, on Thursday.

In a statement provided to Peel Police — shared by a group called “Malton Moms” — on behalf of the Bagan and Tomatuk Family, they say mother Heather Bagan departed her home to drop off her youngest child at daycare. When she returned, Bagan “was devastated to find her home gutted by fire.”

“Heather’s boys were a delightfully rambunctious bunch, but they were also a tribe of their own. Brothers and young boys, that can most definitely be described as incredibly kind, always caring, affectionate, and more than anything, deeply loved,” the statement read.

The three brothers were identified as 15-year-old Coen Bagan-Overholt — who “was known for being witty and having a great sense of humour, but he will be remembered for how he always had a smile on his face,” Riley Bagan-Overholt, age 12, who was “smart and observant in his own quiet way, and very spunky,” and Alex Bagan-Overholt, age 9, who “was a fun, silly and happy-go-lucky boy who also always wore an infectious smile.”

Brampton kids

Alex Bagan-Overholt, age 9 (left), Coen Bagan-Overholt age 15 (middle), and Riley Bagan-Overholt age 12 (right). Photo courtesy: Peel Police

Coen, Riley and Alex are survived by their sister Taylor, 21, “who they adored,” and their baby brother Nate, age 5.

Began’s family will be travelling from their home community of Moose Factory, Ont., to reunite with her. The family has asked for privacy during this time.

“We thank you for the kind words of support and comfort, for the thoughts, donations, and for the empathy and love that has been expressed by so many who share our grief and loss during this unimaginable time,” said Heather’s sister, Cheryl Tomatuk-Bagan.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family with rehousing and funeral costs.

Firefighters were called to the townhouse complex near Torbram Road and Clark Boulevard just before 9:15 a.m. Peel police said one home was fully engulfed.

Const. Akhil Mooken said they are not investigating the fire as a neglect incident.

“This is a tragic circumstance where a mom went to drop off another child at school, returned home and discovered the home was engulfed in flames,” he said at a news conference.

Brampton Fire Chief Bill Boyes said firefighters were met with heavy flames and smoke and pulled three children from the home. They were taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries, where they were pronounced dead.

“This is a tragic day to have three young children perish in a fire, it’s absolutely horrible,” Boyes said at the scene.

Before firefighters arrived at the scene, Mooken said officers tried to rescue the children from the home.

“The desire to try to save a life, to save these kids, really is what took forefront for them, and they made several attempts both at the front of the home, at the rear of the home to try and rescue these kids. Tragically, they were not successful,” he said.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries and was treated by paramedics.

The Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office has since been called in to investigate the cause of the fire.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown says one of the three boys called 9-1-1 to report the blaze, but firefighters couldn’t get there in time to save the children.

Mayor Brown says the boy told the emergency dispatcher that he was stuck in the house. Brown says it only took six minutes for fire trucks to reach the burning house, but by then, the home was fully engulfed in flames.

More multiple-death fires in Ontario this year: Office of the Fire Marshal

A fire that left three boys dead in Brampton yesterday is just the latest in a string of blazes that have together claimed 15 lives across Ontario so far this month.

The Office of the Fire Marshal, which is tasked with investigating such fires in the province, says the numbers of both fatal fires and deaths have dipped compared to January of last year, but there are significantly more deaths than in January 2020.

Deputy Fire Marshal Tim Beckett says that in January 2020, there were 10 fatal fires that left a total of 11 people dead, while in January 2021, 15 fires left 22 people dead.

Beckett says fire deaths are always more common in the colder months, but this year, the number of fires that have left more than one person dead has increased.

In addition to the Brampton fire, the OFM is investigating a blaze that left two people dead in Toronto on Wednesday night, one that left three children dead on Sandy Lake First Nation last week, and an explosion in Ottawa that killed six.

Beckett says fires are more common in the winter because people are more likely to use space heaters or smoke indoors.

The Peel District School Board confirmed that the three children attended schools under its sector.

“We are deeply saddened by the news of the three students who passed away this morning in Brampton,” school officials wrote, saying the teenagers attended Judith Nyman Secondary School and Earnscliffe Senior Public School. The nine-year-old was a student at Eastbourne Drive Public School.

“This tragedy has brought great sadness to the students and staff… and our entire Peel community.”

Mayor Brown initially tweeted that two of the children were aged 10 and 16, but he has since tweeted an update with the correct ages.

“The ages of the three deceased children are tragically confirmed to be 15,12 and 9 years old. No words can adequately describe the enormity of this loss. No words do justice. Our community grieves with this Brampton family, their friends and relatives,” he tweeted.

“My heart breaks for this family and the entire community affected in Brampton,” Premier Doug Ford said in a tweet. “This is an absolute tragedy.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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