Schoolmates, friends ache for Avery fire victims
By Tonya Maxwell, STAFF WRITER

Posted: Feb 02 at 01:30 AM

NEWLAND – Listen to the hearts of the high school students who mourn the daughter and of the adults, a generation older, who grieve for her mother.

The memories are so similar – recalling the easy smiles, the ever-present happiness, the way each one would befriend anyone – they could be talking about the same person.

But they aren’t.

Instead, they cry and laugh and remember Lilly Bomar, 44, and her 15-year-old daughter Bonnie, who lived with open hearts and died together late Tuesday night in a house fire that destroyed their Avery County home.

Fire investigators are still looking for the cause, but believe a kerosene heater or faulty electrical wiring might have started the blaze that destroyed the home at 474 Old Montezuma Road.

Bomar’s older son, 13-year-old Billy, escaped from the fire with scrapes and scratches after rescuing his 3-year-old brother Roland, affectionately known at Buddy.

A smoke detector woke Billy around 11 p.m., said Detective Tim Tipton of the Avery County Sheriff’s Department, who talked with the teen Thursday.

Billy opened his bedroom door to thick smoke and hot ashes and crawled on his hands and knees to the front door, Tipton said. He ran to a neighbor’s house for help, but no one was home. He beat on the windows, setting off the burglar alarm, which automatically called deputies.

He then ran back to his house, and broke out a window in his mother’s bedroom because the front door was too hot to touch. Crawling inside, he heard his brother crying on the bed and carried him back through the window.

"After her got the 3-year-old out, he set him on the bank and was going to go back inside when deputies arrived," Tipton said. "The house was so hot, the deputies couldn’t get near it."

Billy saved his brother’s life, Tipton said. "We thought what he did was exceptional. There’s no question what he did was heroic."

Bomar and her daughter, who were both found in Bonnie’s room, died of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Avery County fire marshal.

Just down the road from Bonnie’s home, classmates and teachers gathered Thursday afternoon at Avery High School to remember the sophomore who was an honor student and kind without exception.

"Bonnie had a lot of friends, and there are a lot of kids who would call her their best friend," said Sherman Andrews, her homeroom teacher. Bonnie, described as always mild-mannered and cheerful, was happy to be friends with anyone.

She would give of herself without asking anything in return, said Christa Causby, a sophomore who had known Bonnie since middle school.

"It’s ironic," she continued, tears streaking her cheeks. "We were supposed to go to Bonnie’s house to work on a project for class. We were building a life-size Egyptian sarcophagus, and now I can’t do it because it’ll feel too much like building a coffin."

Like her daughter, Lilly Bomar smiled often and was upbeat even on the dreariest of days, said Connie Brown, a friend who worked with Bomar at the Beech Mountain Resort.

"There’s not a dry eye on Beech Mountain," Brown said, crying herself at memories of the woman she has known for 15 years.

Brown would complain to Bomar about the slick mountain roads and gray skies on icy days, but Bomar always had the same response: "It’s perfect."

"You’ve never known anyone who could be that positive. She lived her life for her friends, her family, God and her children."

Thursday, Brown talked with Bomar’s younger son, Buddy. The 3-year-old boy is staying with his father in Tennessee and demanded to talk with his momma over the telephone.

Just three weeks ago, Bomar’s family had to put the pet Dalmatian, "Dina," to sleep, Brown explained.

"Momma’s gone to heaven," Brown told Buddy.

"Like Dina?" Buddy asked.

"Yes, like Dina."

Contact Maxwell at 232-5957 or

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