1 killed in Placedo fire (w/video)

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Feb. 22, 2014 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 21, 2014 at 8:22 p.m.

Firefighters work to put out a trailer fire  in the 100 block of  West Serene Drive in Placedo. The double-wide trailer and two cars were completely destroyed.

Firefighters work to put out a trailer fire in the 100 block of West Serene Drive in Placedo. The double-wide trailer and two cars were completely destroyed.

PLACEDO - Christina and Fernando Navarro were in Port Lavaca when they received a call from her mother, Stella Bonuz, 83.

Bonuz, who was alone at the mobile home the three share in Placedo, sounded panicky.

"I'm dying," Bonuz said. "I can't breathe."

Bonuz was on oxygen 24 hours a day, and her daughter thought she was having a panic attack, which happened occasionally.

Christina Navarro called to ask her neighbor to check on her mother. The couple, who has been married 47 years, left Port Lavaca for Placedo.

"My neighbor said she heard an explosion," Navarro said. "And the home was gone by the time we arrived."

The 1990s mobile home, garage, carport and two vehicles in the 100 block of Serene Drive had caught fire, and all were a total loss.

The Navarros own only the clothes on their backs. They lost all their photographs, their necessary medications and their wedding rings.

Victoria Fire Marshal Ronald Pray confirmed that someone died in the fire, but he could not confirm the family's belief that it was Bonuz.

Victoria County Justice of the Peace Stuart Posey ordered an autopsy.

"I'm not ruling anything out until after the Travis County Medical Examiner performs the autopsy tomorrow and confirms there was nothing unnatural about the death," Pray said.

Bonuz moved into the Placedo home with her daughter and son-in-law one year ago when her living situation in a Port Lavaca apartment complex became difficult.

"She was a happy person with a lot of joy," Navarro said.

Bonuz lost her husband in 1966 and raised her only daughter, Navarro, in Port Lavaca.

"They had a very good marriage," Navarro said. "She's with him now."

Navarro gave her mother two grandchildren, and they gave her two great-granddaughters.

Bonuz loved novellas and the color yellow, Navarro said. The devout Catholic loved to read Christian literature, and she collected crosses.

"She prayed the rosary night and day," Navarro said. "I'm going to miss her smile, her love and her prayers."

Navarro said she thought the fire started in the garage, where her 2005 Tahoe was parked.

The Victoria Fire Department and volunteer firefighters from DaCosta, Bloomington and Placedo responded to the emergency call received at 12:11 p.m. Saturday.

They had the fire under control within 20 minutes of their arrival.

"The age of the structure and the wind accelerated the fire," said Victoria Fire Department Battalion Chief Roger Hempel.

The Civilian Fire Academy provided rehabilitative care for the firefighters.

Three investigators from the Victoria County Fire Marshal's Office, including Pray, and two investigators from the Victoria County Sheriff's Office are investigating the origin of the fire and the cause of death.

The Placedo Volunteer Fire Department opened its doors to the Navarros immediately following the fire.

Volunteers purchased fried chicken and side dishes and served everyone dinner at the firehouse.

"We try to be here for the community," said volunteer Maria Zapata. "And we'll be here as long as the family needs us."

The Navarros plan to stay with their son in Port Lavaca until they can rent an apartment.

"I fed her breakfast this morning and told her I loved her when I left," Navarro said. "I wish I hadn't gone."



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