Fire investigators plan to revisit the site of a North Bend explosion later this week. They believe it may have originated in a restaurant under renovation.
That restaurant’s loss changed one woman’s life.
“It was a dream,” Lisa Riley said. “If you would've seen the inside of the building, you would've seen the dream.”
Riley’s dream of opening her own restaurant started 30 years ago as a high school student. She spent most of her life as a waitress until November 2013 when she quit her job at the River Bend Café in order to focus all her time and money on what she named “Run-A-Muck Café, Bakery & Spirits”.
"It was gorgeous," she sighed.
She planned to open it in three weeks when an explosion and fire tore through it, damaging homes and businesses for blocks in every direction.
"It's all gone. It's incredible," said River Bend Café Owner Rich Maki.
As Riley’s former boss, Maki knows how hard she’s worked, what she’s risked, and the uncertainty she now faces.
"Customers loved her,” he remembered. "She created a gap."
Riley’s brand new prep table sits on its side in piles of insulation and warped tin. A rocking chair for customers is splintered wood.
After investing $140,000, Riley says she’s not sure how she’ll pay back her loan, since her insurance coverage depended on construction that was not yet complete.
A mother of three, Riley planned to pass the restaurant on to her children.
"I thought, 'I lost my life. I lost the legacy I was going to hand,’” she cried. "My 8-year old son asked me two days ago, 'Mom, are you going to find another building? I wanted to work for you.'"
Riley's friends have set up the North Bend Explosion Relief Fund to help her and others affected by the destruction. Anyone who would like to donate should visit a branch of Opus Bank.