Man who survived killing fields loses son, home

Man who survived killing fields loses son, home »Play Video
Sean Phuong breaks down in tears over the death of his 17-year-old son.
SEATTLE - A local family that's seen loss before is struggling to recover from yet another tragic event - a house fire that killed their 17-year-old son.

The deadly fire left the family homeless and heartbroken.

Now Sean Phuong prays that his 17-year-old son Patrick will have a better life next time.

"We wish for next life - good education, smart friends, family," says Sean, who fled the killing fields of Cambodia years ago to make a new life in America.

The Monday night fire not only killed his son but destroyed the family's home and nearly everything they owned. But Buddhist tradition means burying loved ones with clothes for rebirth.

"That's why we offer clothes. We offer everything - but I don't have anything," he says.

Sean can't bear parting with his son's only jacket that didn't burn.

"Because I saw my son walk to school with it and one shoe," he explains. So he'll cremate his son with donated clothing.

Insurance will help with the home loss but not his son's cremation.

"I'd like to pay off first before they cremate, but I don't have the money," Sean says.

Now, with just $1,000 to their name, the family of eight is staying with relatives while they rebuild their lives.

"Everything, nothing left, that's all I have, that's all I have," Sean says.

He assures his frightened children that if he could survive the killing fields of Cambodia with nothing, they will survive this.

"When I escaped from Cambodia, cross a lot of landmines, a lot of people died that come from there," he remembers.

The KOMO News Problem Solvers learned about the family's struggles and gave the Phuongs some gift cards to help them with a new start.

Sean has been out of work for the past year, and several friends are donating toward cremation costs - but they're still short by $2,000.

Anyone wishing to help may donate to the Patrick Soeun Memorial Fund at any Bank of America.