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Family suspects fire victim was woman, 20

Jan 04 2012

As fire investigators continue to probe a fatal blaze on the Cowichan Reserve on New Year's Day, family members say the victim is likely 20-year-old Crystal Joe.

Flames broke out around 6 a.m. at a fifth-wheel trailer on private land in the 1600-block of Tzouhalem Road in Duncan. When North Cowichan South End firefighters arrived, the trailer was engulfed and nothing could be done to save the occupant.

The body was so badly burned, a forensic autopsy is being conducted this week to confirm the identity. But Duncan councillor and tribe member Joe Thorne said Crystal Joe lived in the trailer on her father's property and has not been seen since the fire.

Joe's father, Abraham Joe, was Thorne's uncle and Thorne said his daughter Sarah was extremely close to the 20-year-old. "I was with the father yesterday and he's just in shock. He saw my daughter and broke down because they called each other sisters," Thorne said.

Thorne said Joe might have had friends over on New Year's Eve, but he believed she was alone in the trailer when the fire started. The entire community is reeling, Thorne said, and the family is requesting privacy as they grieve.

"Something this devastating has an effect [on everyone], realizing that it was a horrible way to go."

Thorne said the family wants to thank firefighters, paramedics and Mounties for their efforts responding to the fire.

Abraham Joe also lost two grandchildren during a house fire on Oct. 4, 2006. Marisa Justina Thomas, 9, and Troy Brandon Joe, 5, were among six children and three adults in the home when the fire broke out.

Chief Harvey Alphonse said support teams and Ts'ewulhtun health counsellors are supporting the family. "It's a tragic event and we're very sad by the news," he said.

Alphonse would not confirm Joe was the victim until the autopsy is complete. The province's fire commissioner and RCMP have not released the cause of the fire and are still investigating.

It's the second fatal trailer fire in a week. A 44-year-old man, Wilfred Joseph Henry Jr., died Thursday when flames consumed his trailer on the Tsartlip First Nation in Brentwood Bay.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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