Boy's death shakes those who knew him

Sylvia Parmenter feels like she has only one thing to be grateful for right now, that she had the "privilege" of being Patrick's mom.

"He was such a joy," she said, weeping Monday. "I keep feeling him going, 'Mom it's OK.'

It's been hell."

On Friday night, her 9-year-old son Patrick Ryea died inside a shed fire that investigators believe he started.

The third grader became trapped when he lit his third fire of the night inside the door of a shed at the R&K Ranch on Schulz Drive two houses from his own in South Carson City.

It wasn't until Saturday morning, some 14 hours after Patrick was reported missing, that a deputy walking past the shed to continue a search for him caught a glimpse of his body in the morning sun.

The R&K Ranch was a place Patrick knew well and owner Rich Wontorski said he was familiar with Patrick.

Wontorski said fire crews were extinguishing the shed blaze when a mattress that had been smoldering in his trailer office caught fire an acre and a half away.

"Everything took us away from the shed," Wontorski said.

Parmenter said her son did not have a history of starting fires. But he had been known to run off and hide when he became upset. When Patrick didn't come home after his footprints were found around the fire scenes, everyone thought he was hiding again. It's not clear where he got the lighters, but investigators found at least three.

On Monday morning, Wontorski hired a crew to clear away the burned shed. There was no shame when he said, "We cried all day yesterday and the day before."

A dinosaur lover, the ever-smiling Patrick was the smallest in his class at Seeliger Elementary School, said Principal Lee Conley.

"He was small in stature but had just a huge, huge heart. Every day at lunch he'd come up and put a little dinosaur sticker on my tie," the principal said.

Before classes started Monday, Conley called his staff in for a meeting. He said he'd practiced what he was going to say to them, and was sure he had it down.

"I thought 'I can handle this, I'll be tough,'" he said.

But when the words came out, he cried. They all cried together.

"It's just that you've got a small, little, nice, meek kid like this who never would harm a fly and something like this happens to him. There was not a mean bone in his body," Conley recalled. "And he loved getting hugs."

A note sent home with students told parents of Patrick's death and that counselors were on hand if children needed to talk.

Conley said at recess, Patrick's classmates would ask questions, like if Patrick was in heaven.

"One of them said, 'He's floating with the angels now.'"

Among Patrick's survivors are his mother, Sylvia, brother Kevin Conrad, 15, sister Elizabeth Conrad, 13, maternal grandparents Caroline and Les Parmenter all of Carson City and his father, Patrick Ryea of Washington.

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.

A stunned neighborhood

On Nov. 2 at about 5:30 p.m. tragedy hit our home in Carson City.

We loved our quiet neighborhood because of our country atmosphere where we raised and trained people and horses.

I'm overwhelmed by all the neighborhood support during this time. Our hearts go out for Patrick's family and friends.

Was this a tragedy? Yes. Have we learned something from this? Yes, love thy neighbor. Ken Furlong from the Carson City Sheriff's Office and his crew of deputies were outstanding throughout this event.

My hat is off to all of those firefighters and search and rescue people, dogs and horses involved in looking for Patrick - they would not give up.

Let's let this be a warning to all other parents to watch and love our children and to know where they are at all times.

Many thanks to all and may this make us a stronger neighborhood and a stronger city. Our greatest loss is Patrick.

- Rich and Kim Wontorski from the R&K Ranch


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