Boys' Deaths Leave Vt. Communities in Grief

A 6-year-old and 7-year-old boy died only a few days apart in separate incidents

A pair of unrelated child tragedies has left two Vermont communities in mourning.

Monday, a 6-year-old boy named Chance Martin died after a fire tore through his grandfather’s home in Williamstown.

Local officials said Monday they believe the fire may have started with an electrical problem.

However, multiple sources told necn it is really too soon to suggest that anything could've been done differently to avoid the little boy’s tragic death, because a full Vermont State Police investigation is still underway.

Neighbors said Tuesday the family is deep in grief, and did not wish to comment for this report.

In a separate case, in East Fairfield, a 7-year-old boy was killed Friday when a big piece of farm equipment he was riding with his dad tipped over.

An obituary for Grady Howrigan published in the Burlington Free Press said he loved farming and selling fresh honey from his family’s honeybees.

“There's nothing that I can say or that anyone can say that's going to make it any easier,” said Priscilla Minkin, a chaplain with the University of Vermont Health Network’s Central Vermont Medical Center, acknowledging the pain felt in the communities.

Minkin, who is experienced in counseling and comforting people experiencing grief, said with tragedies such as those that struck Williamstown and East Fairfield in the past few days, it’s natural for small communities to be left feeling raw.

“There is a rabbinic teaching that says, 'When a child dies, we are commanded to be silent,' because there are no words of comfort,” Minkin recalled. “So that's when we hold each other.”

The Vermont Division of Fire Safety would not comment on the death of Chance Martin, saying it would be premature because the investigation into the fire is still ongoing.

Speaking generally, the division did say it wants all individuals and families to remain mindful year-round that they should ensure their residences have smoke alarms and that they are working well. That includes checking the alarms’ batteries or power supplies, and looking into whether the devices may be out-of-date and due for an upgrade.

Deputy director Joe Benard additionally said he would like to see more Vermont families talk regularly about establishing and practicing potential home escape routes.

“Smoke alarms save lives,” Benard advised. “If you don't have a plan, draft one.”

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