A Port Angeles, Washington, woman and her three young children are missing after a deadly fire broke out in a mobile home at the Welcome Inn RV Park early Saturday.
Human remains were found inside the trailer and the fire is being treated as a crime scene, Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith said from the trailer park Saturday afternoon.
“We have a loss of life. We have a fire with no explanation of its cause and origin,” Smith said.
Valerie Kambeitz, 34, and her three children, Lilly, nine, Emma, six, and Jayden, five, have not been seen since the fire, he said. “We can’t say that the remains of the people inside the trailer are the same people. But those people are not accounted for at this time. That’s four people.
“We don’t know how many remains there are until we’ve removed them and done the work. It’s premature to give a number at this point,” Smith said.
Police have named Matthew Timothy Wetherington, a 34-year-old Port Angeles man, as a person of interest in the case.
Wetherington is unaccounted for and investigators believe that he lived in the trailer.
Photographs of Wetherington have been posted on the Facebook account of Port Angeles police. They are asking Wetherington, or anyone who knows where he is or has contact with him, to call the police department and ask to talk to an investigator.
Police and firefighters were dispatched to the fire about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday.
“Officers happened to be close by, so they arrived pretty quickly. They found one of the trailers fully engulfed in flames and smoke,” Smith said. “As they were sizing up the scene, a second trailer caught on fire. We think the heat from the first fire caught the second trailer on fire. One occupant in the second trailer was able to crawl out a window and escape without injury.”
Both trailers were substantially burned, the police chief said.
After firefighters discovered the bodies, Smith called out the major incident response team.
Area detectives and agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the state fire marshal, the Port Angeles fire marshal, the Clallam County prosecutor and the coroner are continuing to work at the scene of the trailer fire, he said. The response team has set up an incident command centre.
“The prosecutors are working with our detectives on getting search warrants. We’ve been doing this all day,” said Smith, who was notified at 3:30 a.m.
“This scene will be slow and meticulous. We’ll be working on this through tomorrow. First, there will be the removal of human remains and then we’ll complete the work on the crime scene.”
It could turn out that there was something wrong with the trailer that caused a sudden explosion, Smith said.
“But because we have people unaccounted for, we’re doing what any law-enforcement agency will do. We’re working it to the worst case scenario, which takes time, energy and resources.”
There are quite a few trailers in close proximity to each other in the trailer park. Residents are talking to detectives, Smith said. "We’ve canvassed the neighbourhood a couple of times. We’ve talked to people here,” Smith said. “I’m sure, one way or another, everyone that lives here will talk to law enforcement at some point this weekend.”
Police would also like to talk to people with videos or pictures to help them discover what happened, said Smith. Their number is 360-452-4545