Colinton fire claims life of ‘mentor, friend’

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82-year-old Loek de Visser, killed in Colinton fire, known to "always there for people when he needed to be”

A Nov. 6 trailer fire just west of Colinton claimed the life of 82-year-old Loek de Visser, known to his family as a “mentor” and “friend.”

Athabasca County regional fire co-ordinator Steve Hamilton said the Colinton Fire Department was dispatched at 11:06 p.m. after a neighbour called in the fire on Township Road 652 west of Colinton, and the trailer home was “fully engulfed” in flames upon their arrival.

“His body was discovered in the fire at approximately one o’clock,” Hamilton said, adding that the fire is not being treated as suspicious after a basic investigation Nov. 9.

“We did the basic investigation on Thursday and sent a few things away for testing to see if we can tell if they were the cause of fire, but nothing right now seems suspicious,” he said. “It seems like an accidental fire.”

de Visser’ son Tony de Visser said in an interview that the loss of his father was “quite unexpected.”

“We all took it as a great shock,” he said. “We never expected something like this to happen.”

Tony said de Visser bought the Colinton farm in 1975 and has been a fixture in the community ever since.

“He’s quite well known in Colinton, and also Island Lake,” Tony said. “(He was a) mentor, friend, always there for people when he needed to be.”

Tony also mentioned that his father took Stacey Sherbrooke under his wing and treated him as a son, and the feeling was mutual between the two.

“He called him ‘my son,’ he called him ‘my dad,’” Tony said. “It was pretty – quite touching, actually.”

Tony also said that as his father aged, many people in the area were around to give him a hand. Although he lived at the farm alone most of the time, he could always find a helping hand when needed.

“It was amazing how many people were helping him out,” he added. “Everyone was out there for him, in his older age.”

There will be a celebration of life in memory of de Visser Nov. 18 at the Colinton Community Centre at 2 p.m., which members of the public are welcome to attend.

Cpl. Ronald Bumbry with RCMP media relations called the situation “very tragic” in an interview.

“This is obviously a very tragic situation in regards to this male passing, and that’s basically about all I can add at this time,” he said.

Hamilton added that both the Town of Athabasca and Colinton fire departments did “a heck of a job” in freezing weather, as they fought the fire well until about 3 a.m.

He said the Colinton Fire Department was dispatched at 11:14 p.m., and they were on scene by 11:31 p.m. The Athabasca Fire Department was dispatched as backup, and they arrived “a few minutes after Colinton.”

“The home was a complete loss; it was fully involved when they arrived,” Hamiton said. “Most of the walls already burnt. There was not a chance to save the structure.”

This was the second house fire within four days in the Colinton area. On Nov. 2 a home off of Range Road 223 was completely destroyed by fire, and police have determined the cause to be arson.

Hamilton added the Colinton department is one of his “shining stars” in the county, noting that “they have a really solid department and they get the job done, no questions asked.”

With files from Allendria Brunjes

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