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Three people hurt in fire continue recovery.
courtesy Caring Bridge
Three people hurt in fire continue recovery.

Well wishes are coming in for family hurt in Saturday fire

Gary Matthews - May 15, 2018

STURGIS, S.D. - Get well wishes and prayers continue to come in for those who suffered smoke inhalation in a Sturgis house fire early Saturday morning.

The home on Colorado Drive is owned by Bill and Cherie McKee. They escaped the fire, but the couple's adult children and grandson suffered serious smoke inhalation from the fire. They were life-flighted to a burn center in Greeley.

Family members are updating the progress of the three on Caring Bridge.

In today's update, family members say Mandy McKee still needs breathing assistance, but is communicating via notes with family and caregivers.

Her brother, Jason, remains on a ventilator, and is responsive. Family members say he was in the fire the longest, and doctors are checking to make sure there is no internal damage to his throat.

The smallest member of the family, Ethan, also remains on a ventilator, but family members say it does not appear he has any burns to his lungs or throat. Doctors continue to watch for infections.

Family members encourage prayers and well wishes rather than flowers or balloons, because they are not accepted.

An account for donations is also being set up.

Here is the Caring Bridge entry from Stephanie Weber on Tuesday concerning Jason and Mandy:

Journal entry by Stephanie Weber — 5 hours ago

Tonight's status is that Jason, Mandy, and the family - both at hospitals in Colorado and at home in Sturgis - are HANGING IN THERE.  Jason and Mandy are still in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at North Colorado Medical Center, and they are not allowed to have telephone calls, gifts or deliveries, or visitors outside of very immediate family.   There is just no room for agitation, energy expenditure, or exposure to allergens or upper respiratory "bugs" from the outside world. If you need to reach someone in the family, please leave a message through Caring Bridge, Facebook, or text message 775-385-7215.

Mandy is still breathing with assistance, so she cannot talk due to the tube down her throat, but has had some un-sedated time today, and has even been able to write notes to communicate her needs and concerns to family and caregivers!  Her injuries seem due to inhaling smoke/soot/debris, not internal "burns" affecting the lungs and throat.  We never thought we'd be "grateful" for "just" smoke inhalation, but we are.

Jason is on a ventilator and often heavily sedated to conserve his energy for the healing process.  They were able to remove his contacts, and there is no damage to his eyes, but he can't see well until his glasses arrive from home via mail.  Most worrisome is that Jason, having been in the fire the longest, has internal damage to throat and lungs beyond smoke inhalation; we are very thankful for the fantastic prep that the first responders and personnel at the Sturgis and Rapid City hospitals did in getting Jason intubated quickly and preserved his airway.  Jason cannot speak due to the tube in his throat, but he has been responsive.

So we're 72 hours past a catastrophic house fire that could have ended so differently, and EVERYBODY IS ALIVE. Are we out of the woods? Not yet. Have we found the trail? We hope so. Is the family feeling so loved by our family, friends, and community? YOU BETCHA! Hang in there with us - every hour that we maintain the status quo and don't have a setback is a total win, and we're ready for the long haul knowing we have so much support.

If you would like to help, here are some ways:

* Bill & Cherie and Family will be "camped out" between two hospitals in Colorado for the foreseeable future; you can use this "Meal Train" signup to send digital gift cards for take-out, delivery, or groceries that Bill & Cherie can use in Colorado:


* If you or someone you know is headed from South Dakota to Ft. Collins / Greeley / Denver, please let us know in case the family down here needs anything brought from home.

*Becky (Garrick) Peterson in Sturgis is organizing some meals for the Hemenway/McKee side of the family holding down the fort and getting kids through the end of the school year in Sturgis while two moms, Grandpa, and Grandma are in Colorado with our injured ones.  If you would like to help out there, contact Becky at Sturgis Williams Middle School or message her on

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/becky.peterson.102

* An account for donations is being established, so stay tuned for that information to come soon.  Immediate needs include covering the cost of lodging in Colorado and replacing basic items such as clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc.

And here is Stephanie's update on Ethan:

Journal entry by Stephanie Weber — 16 hours ago

Ethan is getting the very best care in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Children's Hospital in Denver.  Due to the intense nature of the treatments and risk of infection, there are no visitors allowed except immediate family. Also, deliveries of flowers, balloons, etc., are not accepted, and patient status updates will not be given by telephone.

Ethan is still on the ventilator to help him breathe, and they are being very careful about potential infections like pneumonia, but he is sometimes awake briefly and can express himself with nods and some writing.  He's a tough little guy and doing a great job at healing from severe smoke inhalation!  Fortunately, Ethan does not seem to have any burns in his throat or lungs from the hot air of the fire, just a lot of soot and debris that must come out.  He is also being treated for cyanide poisoning from the fumes of things that burned in the house.

Ethan's mom, Mandy McKee, is still hospitalized at North Colorado Medical Center for her fire-related injuries, but Ethan's dad, Jason Baker, is with him all the time and is doing a great job managing Ethan's needs and keeping him calm. Grandpa and Da-Da (Bill & Cherie McKee) and Aunt Katy have also been with him when they are not in Greeley, CO, supporting Ethan's uncle, Jason McKee, and his mom, Mandy, in their recoveries from the fire.

Stay tuned for further updates and information about the families' needs.

Phone number: 605-347-4455
E-mail: [email protected]
Address: 1612 Junction Avenue, Suite #1
Sturgis, SD 57785