CORINTH, Maine — Friday morning was just like any other for the Rand family, except that Christian Rand, 7, had been up sick all night and didn’t get to bed until around 5 a.m., his grandmother Gayle Worster Richards said Sunday, recalling what happened in the time before the family’s life was ripped apart by the fire that claimed the boy’s life.
The youngster’s parents, Amanda and Nicholas Rand, spoke with Worster Richards just after 8 a.m. to tell her Christian was asleep out back and would be staying home while they ran into town for an appointment. They said they’d be back in about an hour.
Worster Richards got dressed and made breakfast. Family friend Shawn Munson stopped by to talk to her about fixing the tires on her car and the two were talking when “we heard what I thought was a door slam.
“I thought it sounded like the camper door,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes. “I opened the door expecting to see Christian and saw the fire.”
The 30-foot camper, parked just feet from his grandparents’ home, was engulfed in flames.
“I went out to the camper and I was screaming [but] it was too late,” Worster Richards said. “He [Munson] was trying to push me back and told me to call 911. He ripped the door open and he couldn’t go in. Everything was just completely gone.”
The fire burned so hot and so quickly that it ripped through the camper in just minutes, and burned the backside of her house, the boy’s grandmother said.
“We were all right here,” she said, saying the boy’s grandfather, Clyde Richards Jr., and aunt were next door, within sight of the home and camper, which today is just a burned shell. “I stood right there and all I wanted was just crawl right in the window and just hold him. Just hug him.”
Clyde Richards thought someone was target shooting and he came running down when he saw the flames.
Christian’s parents, who have been staying at a hotel provided by the American Red Cross since the fire, have not returned to their home. The camper was used as a bedroom for the young family, Worster Richards said.
“If it had happened a little bit earlier they all would have been there,” she said. “The fire marshal told us today that if he been in there with an adult they would have died too. It moved that quickly.”
The fire was reported at around 9:35 a.m.
Fire investigators with the State Fire Marshal’s Office told the family on Sunday that the deadly fire was not caused by any malfunction in the camper, which was heated by a single radiant heater.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Sgt. Tim York of the State Fire Marshal’s Office said Saturday.
A candlelight vigil was held Sunday night at the Corinth United Methodist Church and was an opportunity for the family and friends to reminisce about the little boy.
“We’re trying not to cry,” Nicholas Rand said, sitting beside his wife and surrounded by those who love them.
The vigil was filled with tears but also funny stories of the little boy who was nicknamed “spaz monkey” and attended Kenduskeag Elementary School.
“He fell asleep in my arms and when he woke up he asked me if I was his girlfriend,” one woman said, a memory that made everyone around smile.
Christian informed the woman that he already had 10 girlfriends, which caused another round of bittersweet smiles.
“I am glad you all are here,” Nicholas Rand said at the end of the vigil, which concluded with the kids in attendance releasing balloons.
After most people left the church, Christian’s older brother Issac broke into tears and was comforted by his father, who hugged him for a good while.
Amanda Rand said after the ceremony that the family is still in shock and is trying as best they can to recover from their loss.
“I am comforted by the fact the last memory he has is of me tickling him to wake him up,” she said, saying her son had a head cold.
The entire family is heartbroken and that pain was intensified by comments that he was neglected, said his cousin Stephanie Worster, of Trenton, and aunt Margaret Seavey, of Tremont, who gathered before the vigil at Worster Richards’ home with other relatives, including great grandmother Viola Worcester.
“If you knew the family you would know” the truth, Seavey said.
The statements about him being home alone are the most hurtful, Worster Richard said.
“He was not home alone,” she said. “It was just so fast.”