NEWPORT, Ore. (KOIN) — The Newport motel fire that killed 4 people began in a ground room floor that spread to second-story rooms and engulfed those occupants.
Investigators said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but began in room 103 of the Newport City Center Motel around 6 a.m. on August 5.
Two bodies were discovered around 4 p.m., then two more around 8 p.m. in rooms 220 and 221. Authorities identified the victims as:
Tammi Sue Hepner, 51, of Portland
Allen Arthur Hepner, 63, of Portland
Sandra Sue Shoemaker, 60, of Springfield
Danny Keith Shoemaker, 64, of Springfield
The Shoemakers were in room 220, the Hepners in room 221.A GoFundMe page has been set up for the Hepners.
“We would like to thank the community for their outpouring of support and prayers, including the efforts to bring our sister home from her peace corps service overseas.
“Our parents, Allen and Tammi Hepner, touched many lives with their kindness, generosity, love and humor.
“We would also like to thank all first responders with special thanks to the Newport Police…The gentlemen were amazing and compassionate during a very terrible time in our lives.
“We appreciate the continued outpouring of support from the local and worldwide communities but do ask that our privacy be respected while we work through this tragedy as a family.
“Allen and Tammi were amazing, kind souls. They were funny and loving. They could be counted on to be a listening ear or a giving heart.
“We shall miss them terribly.
“~The Hepner/Pierson Families”
Witness: ‘Smoke coming out of 103’
For Aethena Watkins, the fire is still to much to think about and she can’t bear to look at the damage. She moved to a temporary home across town after the fire.
Watkins said she tried to get everyone out. She was staying on the first floor of the City Center Motel when she woke up and saw the smoke and flames.
“There was smoke coming out of 103 and then all of a sudden flames come out of 103 and jumped over,” she told KOIN 6 News.
She pounded on at least a half-dozen doors trying to get other people out.
“It was just fast. There were a lot kids that were scared and a lot of kids that came out with nothing. No pants. No nothing,” Watkins told KOIN 6 News. “There was a lady that was 7 months pregnant, and she got my attention, pulled me over there and said thank you, because if it wasn’t for me her baby wouldn’t have made it because she wouldn’t have made it.”
Watkins said she doesn’t remember hearing any fire alarm and said her room did not have one.
“The second floor, it sounds like they had smoke alarms but those were refurnished rooms,” she said. “The ones down here were still the original room, they had, nobody in the downstairs had any (smoke alarms/detectors).”
She believes they would have saved lives.
“It was hard to be so helpless.”