By Miriam Raftery
Update July 6, 2016: The Medical Examiner has confirmed the identity of James Peter Keefe,53 and also confirmed that the second body is that of his wife,but has not released her full name pending efforts to locate her relatives in Canada.
Memorial fund established for Jim and Kyrie Keefe
July 3, 2016 (Potrero) –A memorial service is planned for July 10th at 11 a.m. to commemorate Jim Keefe and his wife, Kyrie. The service will be held at 28020 State Route 94 in Potrero, the site where the young couple lived. Bodies believed to be theirs were found by volunteer searchers among boulders 50 to 70 yards behind their home after the Border Fire.
“Let’s get together to honor them, talk to each other about what happened that tragic day, and salute two wonderful people who brightened our lives and made us smile. See their art, tell some stories on the mic, hear some music, walk the property, cry, hug,and laugh,” Claudia Millerbragg posted on the Potrero Town page on Facebook, adding that people should bring chairs.
The Medical Examiner’s office has identified the cause of death as thermal and inhalation injuries, though official confirmation of identities is pending an autopsy. However neighbors who found the bodies and a family member have confirmed that the couple, whose van had a broken transmission and who had lost phone connections due to the fire, perished when the blaze burned over the rocks where they took shelter.
Neighbors and friends have said they repeatedly asked the Sheriff to mount a search but that no serious search had been conducted 10 days after the fire began. After a deputy denied access to residents who planned to mount a search , determined community members accessed the site through a neighbor’s property and found the deceased couple within 15 minutes, by following tracks from the couples’ dogs that had repeatedly evaded rescuers, running back and forth to the ridge where their owners’ bodies were found.
Jim Keefe’s sister, Maureen Mazzie, posted a message on the Potrero Town page on Facebook thanking friends and neighbors for all of their efforts amid the tragedy. She added:
I messaged yesterday to some of you that the coroner's office confirmed Kyrie's identity after searching through Jimmy's and her belongings. They were in fact married. So that is good news. Now they have to try to locate her family in Canada for notification and inquire as to her family's wishes. My preference would be to lay them to rest together...As for all of the issues with law enforcement and community officials surrounding all of this, again, I am at a disadvantage. I see all of your posts as to how this was handled and all I can say at this point is keep up the good fight. My hope is for a better and faster response in the future for your community.
Lastly and by no means least, thank you so much for your kindness, love and support through all of this. Patrick and I are forever in your debt. We would also like for all of you to take a moment for yourselves. For those of you who feel you should have done something sooner, don't waste time or emotion with that. You all did what you could when you could. In Jimmy's words "peace, love and light."
Leann Mitsui and Nicole Botticelli, friends and neighbors of the couple, have launched a “Go FundMe” site to pay for memorial service costs and adoption of the couple’s 11 dogs. Thus far, $1,695 of the $5,000 goal has been raised. You can donate at https://www.gofundme.com/2c2et997 .