A Port Burwell man is charged in a fire-pit mishap that killed his granddaughter and seriously injured four other relatives, a development that has further devastated the family, a friend says.
Jake Hiebert, 33, wife Tina, 28, and three of the couple’s children, ages one, four and seven, were injured while having a cookout at Jake’s parents’ house on July 12. One-year-old Layla Hiebert, who suffered burns to most of her body, died three days later from her injuries.
Johan Hiebert, 55, is charged with criminal negligence causing death and four counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, the OPP said Friday. He’s scheduled to appear in a St. Thomas court on Sept. 7.
The charges against Johan Hiebert, Jake’s father, have devastated the grieving family, said a close friend.
“It’s definitely not what Jake and Tina want. They are already grieving the passing of their baby girl and this just adds to the worry and pain they are feeling,” Eva Enns, a family friend who has been asked to speak for the Hieberts, wrote in a Facebook message.
“They are a very close family . . . so to have this happen hurts them all. The family is very supportive of each other and this is adding unnecessary anxiety to an already sad, sad family.”
Jake, Tina and the couple’s five children had been staying with Jake’s parents at their home on Vienna Line while their new house is being built. The family was having a cookout in the backyard shortly before 7 p.m. and fuel was added to the fire, though it remains unclear how it ignited, a relative previously said.
An OPP spokesperson confirmed Johan Hiebert’s relation to the injured family members but declined to say whether an accelerant was involve in the mishap, citing the ongoing criminal probe.
The conditions of the four family members who remain in hospital are improving, according to an update on an online fundraiser that had collected nearly $70,000 as of Friday.
Two of the couple’s other children, a nine-year-old boy and six-year-old girl, were not injured and are being cared for by family members.
FIREPIT SAFETY TIPS
- Keep a firepit fire contained in size and away from nearby buildings or structures
- Have a water source, such as a garden hose, nearby
- Teach safety to kids, including keeping a distance from the fire
- Keep flammable liquids or fuels away from the fire
- If someone catches on fire, remember the stop, drop and roll response and call 911 immediately.