Smoke inhalation cited in 4 deaths at Montana home

A body is removed from 206 Hemlock Drive in Lockwood, near Billings, Mont., on Thursday after a fire started in a trailer home. Four bodies were removed from the home.

A body is removed from 206 Hemlock Drive in Lockwood, near Billings, Mont., on Thursday after a fire started in a trailer home. Four bodies were removed from the home. Photo by The Associated Press.

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Two men were arrested in Montana on suspicion of negligent homicide hours after four adults were found dead in a burned-out mobile home near Billings, but authorities on Friday released few details on what happened.

Preliminary autopsy results showed all four victims died of smoke inhalation. Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder on Friday identified them as Donavon Fogle, 25, Troy Saylor, 28, Brandi Hansen Moats, 25, and Amber Marie Beyers, 33. All four were from Billings.

Jail records show the two men arrested Thursday night in the case face charges of negligent homicide and felony arson.

The men — Zaccary John Kern and Robert Eric Bottenhagen, both 21 and from Billings — are being held at the Yellowstone County Jail.

Firefighters were called to the mobile home in Lockwood, just northeast of Billing, shortly after 4 a.m. Thursday. They arrived as smoke and flames came from what appeared to be the home’s kitchen area, The Billings Gazette reported.

Crews entered the residence and got the fire under control in about 10 minutes, Lockwood Fire Chief Bill Rash said.

Sheriff’s Capt. Bill Michaelis said officials were still investigating what caused the blaze.

Deputies obtained a search warrant before removing the four bodies found in the burned home Thursday afternoon. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined the investigation, and friends and family of the victims gathered near the scene throughout the day.

Linder declined to comment on the relationship between the suspects and victims.

“Our detectives are working with the county attorney’s office to determine where they will go next. They’re conducting an investigation at the scene now,” Linder told The Associated Press Friday.

He added the charges against Kern and Bottenhagen were subject to change, pending further investigation.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito could not be reached immediately for comment.

The night of the fire, neighbor Troy Donges was awoken by his son, who was listening to music when he heard a loud bang. The son looked out the window and saw flames at the mobile home across the street.

Donges told the Gazette he went to the burning trailer and banged on the side of it to test the heat and to wake up anybody who might be inside.

“I was hitting the trailer as hard as I could with my hand,” Donges said. “There was so much smoke in there, I don’t know how anybody could’ve survived. People told me every time I hit it, it sounded like a gunshot, and it woke them up.”

Dale Holthues, who lives next door, said his wife called 911 while he ran to the mobile home. He tried to kick in two different doors but couldn’t get them open and received no response from inside. “We could not get any results,” he said. “I don’t know if they were sleeping or what.”

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