British Columbia

Arts community mourns girl killed in cabin fire

Vancouver's arts community is mourning the loss of a teenage girl who died in a cabin fire on the shores of Shuswap Lake north of Salmon Arm early Thursday.
Phoebe Conway, 10, Azra Young, 14, and Fergus Conway, 14, died in a cabin fire early Thursday. ((Courtesy of the Collier-Young family))
Vancouver's arts community is mourning the loss of a teenage girl who died in a cabin fire on the shores of Shuswap Lake north of Salmon Arm early Thursday.

Azra Young, 14, her cousin Fergus Conway, 14, and his sister, Phoebe, 10, were killed when the cabin in which they were sleeping caught fire during a family vacation.

Azra's parents, Jonathan Young and Kim Collier, were in a cabin just a few metres from where the kids were sleeping.

Both Young and Collier are involved in Vancouver's theatre scene, and that community is struggling to come to terms with the tragedy.

On Friday, a picture of Azra along with a poem sat outside the tents of the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, an annual event in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood.

"The pain and the sadness of something like this … that beautiful girl, 14-year-old girl, coming into the prime of her life, so loved and cherished by her parents, then gone," said the festival's artistic director, Christopher Gaze.

Collier directed Titus Andronicus at last year's festival. She and Young also helped found the Electric Company Theatre in Vancouver.

"Azra, Jonathan, Kim … they're a part of this theatre community. A central part," Gaze said.

"These people are so well loved, well respected, and this young girl, Azra, darling girl, came to our theatre on Sunday night."

He said time stopped for the actors at the festival Thursday night as they took a moment to remember Azra.

"There was a great mass of us there, we held hands, two or three actors said beautiful things to try to ease the pain," Gaze said.

Night haunts my mind, says neighbour

Neighbour John Richard Spink says he's haunted by the death of the three kids. ((CBC))
Meanwhile, those staying in neighbouring cabins at Shuswap Lake were still reeling from the news Friday.

John Richard Spink has a vacation home right across the street.

"We just woke up to a wall of red flames burning like crazy way into the sky and got up and called 911 right away," he said.

Spink said that as he watched huge pieces of embers begin to fall, he realized there was nothing he could do to save the cabin.

"One of the parents, the father, was walking back and forth on the road and said his children were still in there. [It was] very horrific."

Neighbour Janine Skerratt said they were a great family.

"Lots of kids out there, always barbecuing out there … singing around the campfire, just good times, you know, " she said. "We come up here to Shuswap to have a good time, and when you have to see a tragedy like this, it's just too close to home … very, very sad," she said.

Spink, for one, said it's a night he'll never forget.

"That night does haunt my mind. Definitely," he said.

Police have ruled out foul play and handed the investigation over to the B.C. Coroner's Service, who spent the day combing over what's left of the cabin.

There was no kitchen inside, and investigators still don't know how the fire started.