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Blast victim honored in Oak Harbor

Donna Mae Van Dreumel in a recent picture.  - Submitted photo
Donna Mae Van Dreumel in a recent picture.
— image credit: Submitted photo

Dozens of cars filled the parking lot at Burley Funeral Chapel and lined Ely Street for several blocks Wednesday afternoon during the funeral for 36-year-old Oak Harbor resident Donna Mae Van Dreumel, who was killed in the April 2 Tesero refinery blast in Anacortes.

Friends and family from across the country filled every pew and added seats inside the chapel. Suppressed sniffles, sobbing, deep breaths and the crinkle of tissue packages were the only sound from the hushed silence of those who came to pay their last respects and celebrate the life of a wife, mother, daughter and friend.

Donna died Friday evening at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle as a result of injuries sustained April 2 during the Tesoro fire in Anacortes early in the morning.

“I was with her in the final moment when she passed,” her husband, Jim Van Dreumel, said at the funeral.

The two met in the Navy while stationed aboard the USS Platt and married in 1999. Donna left the Navy in 2001 and took a position at the Tesoro refinery as a general operator.

“We spoke every night,” Jim said, recalling his last conversation with his wife at about 8 p.m. Thursday evening.

“At 3:13 a.m. I received another call,” he said. “There had been an accident and I needed to go see her.”

Jim got a friend to watch their children, Emma, 10, and Samuel, 6, and drove to Harborview in one hour and 20 minutes.

“I spent every available moment with Donna sitting beside her, holding her hand,” he said. “She was never alone.”

Larry Frack, Donna’s step-father, spoke of a strong woman with a can-do attitude as he recalled the time Donna joined the Navy.

“No hugs. No kisses. No tears. I’ll see you later,” is all she said the day Frack dropped Donna off to start her naval career.

“If she were here right now, she’d say, ‘Put your man pants on, dude,’” Frack said through heavy tears.

“There are no words I can say to express the grief that we’re going through,” he said.

Rev. Jerry Piper of Olean, New York Methodist Church officiated. A longtime Van Dreumel family friend, Piper called the gathering a family affair.

“This is a military family with military friends,” he said. “There’s the potential for unspeakable tragedy on the table any given day.”

Despite a gathering over such shock and great sadness, he said, “We are here to celebrate life.”

Meanwhile, one of Donna’s coworkers, Matt Gumbel of Oak Harbor, is holding his own at the Harborview intensive care unit. He was severely burned in the refinery fine.

On Tuesday morning, Gumbel underwent surgery to remove the burned skin from his legs, which account for about half of the burned areas on his body, according to his mother Shauna. Gumbel’s physician removed more burned skin from his back and buttocks in a second surgery on Friday.

Gumbel will remain in critical condition until all his burns are removed, according to his doctor.

Gumbel has called Whidbey Island home since 6 months of age. He attended kindergarten at Saratoga Heights, Crescent Harbor Elementary through third grade, then started fourth grade at Broad View Elementary School, continued his education at Oak Harbor Junior High School and graduated from Oak Harbor High School in 1994 in the top 10 of his class.

After graduation, Matt moved to Seattle where he lived until 2005 when he moved back to Oak Harbor. In 2007, the Tesoro Refinery hired Gumbel as an operator.

In addition to his close friends, there’s a strong family support network for Matt, said Shauna.

Matt’s fiance, Kristin Griffith, and her 5-year-old daughter Jordan Griffith, live in Oak Harbor as do his sister Amy Gumbel and her son Cody Gumbel, and his parents Shauna and Paul Gumbel. Matt’s grandparents, Billie Mikesell, Larry Mikesell and Kathy Gumbel, live nearby in Shoreline.

Matt’s status has remained the same since Tuesday.

“Matt is holding his own and the doctors are very pleased with his progress,” Shauna wrote in a recent CaringBridge.org blog post.

Harborview physicians expect Gumbel to remain on the ventilator for a month to a month and a half and stay in the intensive care for the next 60 to 90 days.

“My goal is that he will be out of ICU for my birthday which is the end of June. After ICU Matt will have to have rehab and many surgeries so he could be at Harborview for a year,” Shauna wrote.

The door is always open, she wrote.

“We have had many visitors and would encourage anyone who wants to see him to come down and see him. Unless they are doing a procedure or he is having surgery. ... There are certain procedures they have you do before you can go in his room but someone here will show you the ropes.”

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