|Mary Esta in an earlier family photo. (Submitted photo)|
Mary Esta’s granddaughter is hoping against hope that by some miracle her grandmother did not perish in Wednesday’s fire that burned the 92-year-old’s Lakeside Road home to the ground.
Lisa Batstone, 42, who once lived at the residence with Esta, described the family as being on an “emotional roller coaster” following word Thursday that investigators had not found the elderly woman’s remains among the charred rubble.
“To discover that your family member is stuck in a house that’s burning, it’s the worst possible … it’s a terrible thing to happen to a family member. When they said she wasn’t there, it gave me hope she had escaped somehow but it doesn’t make any sense,” said Batstone, unable to hold back her tears. “It would be nice just to know what happened to have some closure. It’s almost harder, the what if’s. It’s almost worse than knowing what happened, that she died in the fire. Your mind just goes on and on over all the different possibilities.
“We were shocked to hear they didn’t find any remains. We find that kind of hard to believe that she wasn’t in there. It’s almost suspicious.”
Penticton Fire Rescue closed their case Thursday, turning the matter over to the RCMP who later that day released the scene.
The RCMP helicopter searched the area as well and did not find anything.
Family friends also walked along the shoreline of Skaha Lake behind the house in both directions, again with no results.
Batstone, a Pen High grad who now lives in Langley with her husband and six-year-old son, added family members are considering hiring a private firm to help look for the remains.
“There’s possibly something the fire department has missed,” she said. “Most of the family members are completely sure she was there.”
Batstone’s mother had been living at the residence with Esta for the last couple of years and her other daughter (Batstone’s aunt) had also moved to Penticton to help with her care.
They had been trying to convince Esta to move into an extended care facility but according to Batstone her grandmother was very independent and did not want to leave.
“Auntie Barb was at the house at three o’clock (the day of the fire) because mom was at work at the time,” said Batstone. “My auntie Barb showed up at the scene to tell the fire department she believed that grandma was still in the building and then my mom came shortly after that.
“Grandma doesn’t usually leave the house unless somebody’s helping her, she doesn’t walk very far. I was hoping that she escaped the fire and went out to Lakeshore (Road) to a neighbour’s house.
“If she did escape the fire that’s where she’d be. I mean where do you go but to a neighbour’s house? We were sad to discover that she wasn’t in the area, especially with all the people and the police and the fire department and everybody that was there that no one had seen her and we just assumed she was in the house.”
Although fire investigators have so far been unable to determine the cause, it is believed the fire started in the southeast corner of the house.
“If she was sleeping that’s where she would have been, in that part of the house, that’s where the couch was,” said Batstone. “There was a pellet stove in the southeast corner and also an electric heater plugged in by the couch.
“The house went up very quickly so in a situation like that you had probably would only have a minute to get out.”
While the family is going through an incredibly difficult time, with members coming from many different areas, Batstone felt it is important that she speak up.
“I want to send a picture with her name so she’s not the elderly missing woman anymore. I’d like people to know who she is and to know her name, to know her face.”