A 13-year-old Oregon boy named Wyatt Tofte reportedly died in the wildfires engulfing pockets along the West Coast after he initially fled for safety but returned to try and save his grandmother, according to the family.
According to The Associated Press, Chris Tofte, the boy’s father, drove to a nearby town on Monday night to pick up a trailer with the hopes of returning to take the rest of the family and their belongings to safety. (Susan Vaslev, Wyatt’s great aunt and spokesperson for the family, told CNN the father went searching for a generator in town after the power went out during the high winds, and left before the fire actually started.)
The wildfire, although 15 miles away, spread quickly. And while the rest of the family was asleep, it reached the home, forcing Angela Mosso, Tofte’s wife, to cram her son, mother, and pet dog — a 200 lb bullmastiff mix — in the family car, reports The Statesman Journal.
But then the car stopped.
Lonnie Bertallato, Angela’s brother, said Friday that he believes the wheels on the car melted, and his sister was forced to send her son and the dog out on foot. She then said goodbye to her mother, who was unable to walk far, and also set out on foot, reports AP.
“She knew the only way for her son to survive was to run,” Vaslev told CNN. “So she told Wyatt and the dog to run.”
Angela Mosso walked roughly three miles before she was saved by her husband, who was searching for his family, but he didn’t recognize Angela until he explained to her that he was looking for his wife and son, and Angela managed to reply: “I am your wife.”
Chris Tofte took his wife to safety, and then returned to look for his son and mother-in-law.
Several days later, authorities found Wyatt Tofte in the driver’s seat of the family car, with the dog in his lap, and the grandmother’s remains in the back of the car.
“I don’t need to go into too much detail, but obviously…he turned around to go try and save his grandma,” Angela’s brother told AP.
“Wyatt ended up going back to the car, and tried to drive his grandmother out,” said Vaslev. “So he attempted to drive that car, and he — the roads were so hot that it burned up the tires, and so he wasn’t able to drive it to safety. Did not make it out of the fire.”
“It’s devastating. Just the way it happened, and the whole story, and who was lost,” Vaslev told CNN. “Any time a young child dies in a fire like that, and the details, it’s just something that you can’t wrap your head around. And it just hurts.”
Angela Mosso suffered burns across her whole body but is expected to survive.
“She has a long road to go,” said Vaslev. “But to come out of that. We all know surviving full-body burns is a painful experience in itself—recovering from that—and then to come back [to] your son having died, and your mother having died.”
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