Two Idaho guardsmen, two children killed in cabin fire

Officials have identified two of the four people who died in a cabin fire near Tamarack Resort Friday night.

DONNELLY, Idaho -- Four people who died in a cabin fire near Tamarack Resort Friday night have been identified.

Monday the Valley County Coroner confirmed the identity of the victims. Two are members of the Idaho National Guard. Lt. Col. James Harper III, 49, his 14-year-old son James "JJ" Harper, MSgt. Erin Smith, 34, and her daughter Autumn Smith who is either six or seven years old were killed.

The sole survivor, Erin's husband William Smith, is also a member of the Idaho National Guard.

William Smith, 46, of Boise, was taken to St. Luke's McCall Hospital. The Valley County Sheriff's Office said Saturday afternoon that he was treated and released.

The Valley County Sheriff's Office says multiple calls came in about the flames on Whitewater Drive just after 10 p.m. Friday. Several agencies responded, including Donnelly Fire, Cascade Fire, Idaho State Police, U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement, Southern Idaho Timber Protection Association, and the Valley County Sheriff's Office.

The cabin was fully engulfed in flames when crews arrived. The responding units were able to extinguish the fire.

"I just couldn't believe it. I couldn't," said Mark Conley, who witnessed the fire. "I just wanted to see how I could help, but really, there was just nothing anybody could do. There was one man that had run out of the house, along with a neighbor who had been trying to help him, and they were just completely - you know - hysterical."

The fire marshal, Donnelly Fire Department, and the Valley County Sheriff's Office are investigating at the scene of the fire. 

RELATED: Investigation into deadly cabin fire focusing on propane fireplace

On Monday, James "JJ" Harper's mother and stepfather released the following statement:

"We are devastated at the loss of our amazing son JJ Harper and his father, our friend Jim.  JJ's infectious smile, his hearty laugh, his big heart, and his leadership on the football field will be missed by everyone. JJ and Jim were apart for 2 deployments overseas in JJ's short life and they lived every minute of every day to make the time they had together count... Our hearts are also with the Smith family during this difficult time."

The family added that they will hold a memorial hike to Table Rock to honor JJ. The hike is set for Saturday, July 15 at 1 p.m.  A memorial service for the teen will be announced at a later date. A GoFundMe page has been set up as a memorial fund for JJ.

The Valley Co. Sheriff's Office is coordinating with the Idaho National Guard and Tamarack Municipal Association to provide assistance to anyone affected by this incident.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the loved ones affected by this tragic incident," Lt. Jason Speer wrote in a Valley Co. Sheriff's Office news release.

Maj. Christopher Borders, public affairs officer for the Idaho National Guard, has confirmed that Guard members are among the victims.

"They were trying to enjoy the holiday weekend, like everybody else," Borders said. "It's tough to comprehend right now what's happened, but the entire guard is there to support the families, the loved ones."

Erin Smith made headlines last summer when she became the first female tank crew member in the United States. 

Brad Larsen, general manager for resort services at Tamarack Resort released the following statement Saturday afternoon:

"I speak for the whole staff and community in saying that we're stunned and deeply saddened by the fire and loss of life. We can only imagine what their family members are going through right now.

"We are working closely with local and state agencies that are investigating the cause of the fire, and will help them in any way that we can.

"I'd like to thank the Donnelly Fire Department and other area fire departments who provided mutual aid; the Valley County Sheriff's Office, the Idaho State Police and numerous other state and federal law agencies for their prompt response to this tragic situation."

 

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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