PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Travis Cook had no idea a phone call on September 7 would be the last conversation he would ever have with his mother.
Just hours after the call, his 71-year-old mother Cathy Cook and 41-year-old brother, Justin, died trying to escape the Beachie Creek Fire as it ripped through the Santiam Canyon.
“I talked to them at 7 o’clock, they had the Level 2 evacuation,” Travis said. “I tried calling them back at 8 o’clock just to ask them what’s going on but the phone didn’t go through.”
The fire had reached their home. It was too late to escape.
“They left in the car and went down the driveway,” he said. “Tried to go down the gravel driveway, went down a short bit. It looked like they went off the road at that point, they got out of the car, looks like they both tried running to the creek. My brother made it about 40 feet from the car, my mom made it though about 150 yards.”
Search and rescue teams recovered their bodies days later on Saturday, Sept. 12.
Jason Devrouax owns a restaurant in Albany and worked with Justin for years. He said Justin was “a friend to everybody” and “easy to get along with.”
It was while working at the restaurant that Justin met the woman who would be his wife.
“He fell in love with one our line cooks,” Jason explained. “She’s a really hard worker as well. We had dno idea they were dating until pretty much right before they were getting ready to leave.”
Jason said Justin and Yuni spent some time living in Yuni’s home country of Mexico but looked forward to building their life together in the Pacific Northwest before those dreams were cut short.
Yuni was in Mexico when her husband died in the fire. Friends and loved ones are raising money to get her back to the U.S. so she can lay Justin to rest.
“She’s a wreck, not doing good,” Jason said of Yuni. “She didn’t get to say goodbye to her husband.”
Four people have died in the Beachie Creek Fire. It had devoured 191,238 acres and was 20% contained by Wednesday evening.