WESTMINSTER, Colo. — More than 100 people came together in Westminster Saturday to honor a woman who died in an apartment fire last year while trying to save others.
Lea Hamel was one of two people who died in the Westbury Apartment fire last July. Hamel was visiting friends and former co-workers in Colorado and was staying with a friend at the apartment building when it caught fire.
Police and fire investigators determined the cause to be arson but have not made any arrests and are still looking for the person who started it.
In her life, Hamel dedicated her work and free time to helping others.
“Lea was one of those individuals that touched you. Just any small conversation you might have with her, she left that lasting impression,” said former co-worker Justina Sanchez.
Hamel worked at Bright Horizons, a group dedicated to providing employer-sponsored child care, elderly care, back-up care and more.
“She even created and piloted and launched programs that we still used today at Bright horizons,” said Jaelene Wilson, a former co-worker of Hamel’s. “She was just everybody’s friend and wanted to be with everybody and love with everybody. No matter who it was, if you were having a bad day, she was always there.”
Hamel also spent years volunteering at Rocky Mountain Riding Therapy, an equestrian center that helps children with disabilities.
“When she started it, she was scared of the horses and by the time she left she was helping train them,” Wilson said.
In her final moments, Hamel was also trying to help others.
“Last year she had went in to save a couple of people from the Westminster apartment fires and ended up passing away trying to save people,” Wilson said.
Former co-workers say that selflessness and sacrifice does not surprise them because it was Hamel’s nature to help anyone, whether she knew them or not.
Now, nearly eight months after Hamel’ passing, family, friends and co-workers are continuing her legacy of service by creating a Bright Space in her honor.
“I know just how invested she was in helping kids who had special needs, and so with the equestrian center, our hope is that we are able to raise as much money as we can to just make this something she would be so proud of,” said former co-worker Sarah Ortega.
The money will be used to construct an arena, paint the equestrian center, perform some maintenance projects and invest in new therapy tools for the riders that come there.
“If Leah could teach anyone anything and if we can walk away with something to remember her by, it’s really just to see the good in people,” Ortega said.
There is a reward for anyone with information on the Westbury Apartment fire that leads to an arrest. Contact Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867 with information.