'It would’ve been like losing her all over again': Ashes of N.B. murder victim saved from home destroyed by fire
BURNT CHURCH, N.B. -- A family in northern New Brunswick, who lost their daughter to homicide, has now lost their home in a fire. But one special item was saved.
On the night of June 26, fire ripped through a house in Burnt Church, N.B., destroying the home where Hilary Bonnell grew up. The 16-year-old Esgenoopetitj First Nation woman was murdered in 2009. Her cousin is now serving a life sentence for her death.
Bonnell's 14-year-old brother was the only one home when the fire started. He made it out OK and the family prayed their daughter’s ashes would make it out as well.
“I had told the fireman that my daughter's ashes were in there and that if they could save anything, that's what I wanted them to really try their hardest to get to,” says Pamela Fillier, Bonnell’s mother.
Bonnell’s ashes were one of the few things that made it out unharmed.
“He went inside and he said when he found her ashes, he said it was like there was no fire around it at all. So for me that makes me feel like she protected herself,” says Fillier.
The family is now staying in a nearby hotel and Bonnell's step-aunt, Tracy Saunders, has started a GoFundMe page to help get the family back on their feet.
“They've just been through so much tragedy in their lives. I mean, I couldn’t imagine losing a child and you’ll never recover from that. Plus, now losing their home, Freddy and Pam helping to raise their grandchildren, it’s a lot for them,” says Saunders.
Fillier says the retrieval of her daughter's ashes was the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
“If he wouldn’t have been able to get her ashes out, it would’ve been like losing her all over again,” she says.