SHICKSHINNY, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Eyewitness News has continuing coverage of a devastating fire in Luzerne County that killed four members of a family.
It happened in Shickshinny Wednesday morning. Michael Shoemaker, who escaped the fire, says he lost his wife, son, mother-in-law, and nephew in the flames.
Neighbors heard a loud explosion when the fire started, followed by several more. Eyewitness News is told the grandmother had a number of oxygen tanks in the home. The fire killed four people and four dogs, devastating an entire family. Items in the rubble tell of the life they once shared.
Shoemaker’s four-cylinder racecar sits in the ruins of what was once his home before it went up in flames, killing four members of his family.
“I can’t understand why God took my wife, my son and my other family. I don’t know why,” Shoemaker said.
The fire started around 7 a.m. Wednesday morning. State police are investigating the cause. Shoemaker says he tried to lead his family to safety. He and two of his sons, Riley and Gavin, jumped from a second-story window. His handicapped brother-in-law was able to crawl out of the home.
Shoemaker watched in horror as the house burned to the ground, realizing his wife Georgette, oldest son Michael Jr., his nephew Harley, and his mother-in-law Jene were still trapped inside.
“Like your heart is being torn out in front of you and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Shoemaker said.
The devastation is felt throughout the community.
“He lost everything in a heartbeat,” Evergreen Raceway Office Manager Kristine Palushock said.
Evergreen Raceway is where the family celebrated their shared passion. One that Shoemaker planned to pass on to his son.
“We were going to go. I raced the racecar last year. I was handing my duties over to my son Michael, he was going to race at Evergreen Raceway in my car. I let him play football for Northwest. He loved hunting, fishing, whatever Dad did, he wanted to do,” Shoemaker said.
Staff at the raceway say his whole family was involved. His wife and sons were always in the stands cheering him on at every race.
“They are the nicest people in the whole world. Very genuine and down to earth. He always stops to say hello. They’re good people and we just need to help this family because they’re part of our family at the racetrack,” Palushock said.
The raceway is planning a fundraiser, collecting donations and clothes to help Shoemaker.
“It’s a big family here. Everyone helps each other out, especially him. He would give you the shirt off his back to help you if you needed it. We’re going to do the same in return now,” Evergreen Raceway Track Promoter Jason Makarewicz said.
Shoemaker says he is staying with relatives Wednesday night. One son is home from the hospital and the one who is still there is doing much better.
The fundraiser will take place at the next race on February 12th. People can bring money and clothes to the raceway and staff will deliver the donations to Shoemaker and his remaining family members.
The Northwest Area School District sent their condolences to relatives of the family. They said “This incident has deeply affected many within our school community. Our thoughts are with the families of these victims at this time of need.” The district also says it’s offering crisis counseling to those who want it.