Home > Article from newspaper > Deaf couple, child die in Eagle trailer fire

Deaf couple, child die in Eagle trailer fire

August 3, 2007

Family dies on their first night in new home

Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

Denise Manwaring signs the tragic news Thursday to Rachael Portenier, right, Michael Wray, center, and other members of the deaf community.

By Katy Moeller and Patrick Orr – porr@idahostatesman.com  / kmoeller@idahostateman.com


Their hands moved furiously in front of their grief-stricken faces as they conversed in sign language outside a fire-charred mobile home in Eagle Thursday morning.How did the fire start, and why didn’t the family of three get out?

That’s what friends of the family — many of whom are part of the Valley’s tight-knit deaf community — wanted to know in the aftermath of the first fatal fire in Eagle in more than a decade.

But fire officials, who searched the ashes from dawn until about 2:30 p.m., could find no evidence of the source of the fire that killed three people and an unborn child.

Word of the tragedy spread quickly Thursday, and friends came from Boise, Meridian and Caldwell to grieve together.

The deaf couple who perished in the blaze — Harold Eugene Waterer, 38, and his pregnant girlfriend, Heather A. Bohlin, 19 — had moved to the Treasure Valley in May to make a fresh start.

“They were excited about their new lives,” said Cameron Austin, a 15-year-old Meridian High sophomore and son of two parents who are deaf.

Austin spent the day translating sign language for officials and media.

Waterer, Bohlin and Waterer’s daughter, Star D. Waterer, 8, who also died in the 2:30 a.m. fire, had been staying with Mike Wray in Boise until Wednesday — the first night in their new home.

Wray, who is hearing impaired, said he had a spaghetti dinner with the Waterer family a few hours before the fire.

“They didn’t have any chairs, so we sat on the floor around the coffee table,” he said. “Today I was going to bring them a TV and cable. I was going to install Internet.”

Waterer, who was known by his middle name, Eugene, was a welder and had recently worked a job for a week before getting laid off, Wray said.

“He was funny, outgoing and made people laugh,” Denise Manwaring told Austin in sign language. Waterer and Bohlin lived at Manwaring’s home in the mobile home park for a time.

Friends said Bohlin was quiet. She loved puzzles, drawing, scrapbooking and playing Nintendo games with Star.

Residents of Eagle’s Floating Feather Mobile Home Park knew Waterer and his family were moving in soon. But some, including Stacey Corthen, didn’t know when they’d actually be living there.

“I would have gone in if I’d known they were in there,” said Corthen, one of the first two people in the neighborhood to notice and respond to the blaze.

Corthen, a nurse, said she arrived home at about 2:30 a.m. Thursday. A neighbor told her he smelled smoke and went to call 911.

“There were 3-foot-high flames out the side window,” Corthen said. “I pounded on the neighbor’s door because the flames were going toward his house.”

She grabbed his hose and doused flames that were spreading in the grass.

Jim Wood, another resident in the mobile home park, said he smelled smoke at about 3 a.m.

“I was thinking it must be the forest fires,” he said. “Then, three or four minutes later, I heard people talking outside and saw smoke coming out of the trailer.”

Eagle Fire Chief Dan Friend said the first calls about the home fire were vague.

“People driving on Highway 55 called in ‘smoke in the area,’ ” Friend said.

The call from residents in Floating Feather Mobile Home Park helped clarify that there was a structure fire, not just ambient smoke in the Valley.

Corthen said it seemed like the firefighters responded really fast — within a minute or two.

Residents in the park described heroic efforts by firefighters to revive the family, all of whom were found in the back bedroom. Wray said the family slept on mattresses on the floor.

“They had the young girl (Star), trying to give her mouth- to-mouth. They worked on her for half an hour,” said Charles Salisbury, who has lived in the park for eight years.

Corthen credited firefighters’ rapid response and fast action for preventing the fire from spreading beyond the Waterer home.

Bohlin’s friends were planning a baby shower later this month, said Rachael Portenier. She was about eight months pregnant, according to Ada County Coroner Erwin L. Sonnenberg.

Medical personnel at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center performed an emergency cesarean section to try to save Bohlin’s unborn child, but she was stillborn, Sonnenberg reported.

The coroner listed the cause of death for Waterer, Bohlin and Star Waterer as carbon monoxide poisoning while asleep.

There was a smoke detector in the house, but it was not configured for people with a hearing impairment, Friend said.

Investigators determined that the fire started in the home’s front bedroom — what was to be the child’s bedroom — on the floor between a bed and the closet.

Faulty heating or an electrical problem was ruled out as the cause, and there was no evidence of smoking, Friend said. The cause of the fire will be officially deemed “undetermined.”

Fire and police officials from Boise and Star aided Eagle investigators in trying to find the cause of the fire.

“We’d like to have found a match or candle residue — but no evidence was found,” Friend said.

Finding the cause of fires isn’t easy. More than 50 percent are never determined, fire officials said. Fatal fires in Eagle are rare.

“I would say it’s been about 15 years,” Friend said.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

 NOTE FROM FOOKEM AND BUG: We can’t be able to post the video in here so we are adding the link for you to view. Here’s a link:


Also, we hope you can help them by donating to the memorial fund.

Rachael Portenier, a friend of Harold Eugene Waterer, Heather Bohlin and Star Waterer set up a memorial/funeral fund at Wells Fargo Bank in Meridian Thursday.

Donations may be dropped off or sent to the Wells Fargo bank branch, 1682 N. Main St., Meridian, ID, 83642, or any other Wells Fargo branch in the Treasure Valley.

If you have questions about the memorial fund, call Shelby Lawrence at Wells Fargo, 884-1040, or e-mail, shelby.lawrence@wellsfargo.com

Support Services for the Deaf

Cindy Schreiner at the Idaho Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing said special fire and smoke alarms are available for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. Some alarms have very loud sirens or flashing lights. Others are vibrating alarms that go under a pillow and can wake a sleeping person.Many alarm clocks for the deaf have flashing lights, said Schreiner.The local deaf community is welcoming to new families, Schreiner added. When families contact the council, she can direct them to social networks and services like the Boise Valley Deaf Club and can help them get access to assisted listening devices.

Anna Webb


  1. rifki petersen
    September 2, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    I just was looking for my friend Eugene Waterer for years and I came across the clip and i am hoping this is not the same person. Wondering if anyone can help me if this is eugene waterer of California.He had a sisters name Tina and michelle.I cried reading this. Thanks

  2. Tina Carlson
    December 9, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Rifki this is Tina and I am sad to say this is my brother Eugene.

  3. Tina Carlson
    December 9, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    I hope you get this message. Thanks

  4. babette
    March 8, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Tina Carlson :
    I hope you get this message. Thanks

    Tina Carlson :
    I hope you get this message. Thanks

  5. babette
    March 8, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    tina, find me on facebook, I been looking for u guys for so long. I cant believe this,. It break my heart so please find me and let chats or yahoo. rifkipetersen@yahoo.com.

  6. babette
    March 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Tina Carlson :
    Hi Rifki this is Tina and I am sad to say this is my brother Eugene.

  7. March 9, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    tina, I been looking for u guys for so long. I love your brother so much he was my best friend and I miss u too. U were like a sister to me.I wish I knew what happen did I do something wrong to ur mom that why. Im still mad at ur mom. Please email me or find me on facebook. I need to know what has happen.miss u guys

  8. March 9, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I hope u get my message.

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