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Toone family cherishes memories of their young daughters

LAYTON — Rebecca Toone's eyes filled with tears after her dad ate a whole strawberry that she had agreed to give him a bite of.

Her dad reassured the 4-year-old and offered her a replacement. But when he asked for a bite from the new strawberry, instead of turning him down, she willingly offered up the treat.

"She didn't even think twice," said Nathan Toone, who stayed composed Thursday night as he remembered the lives of his two beloved daughters Rebecca and Rachel, who died from what police believe is exposure to a poison gas.

The whole family became sick Saturday from what the family initially believed was food poisoning. Instead, Rebecca's condition worsened, and she was rushed to an emergency clinic and then Davis Hospital, where she later died.

The family's sadness intensified when the youngest daughter, Rachel, who had seemed better following her bout with illness on Saturday, suddenly took a turn for the worse.

"No words can describe the panic and devastation we felt that night as we tried to comprehend the sudden loss of Becca, in the midst of frantic attempts to restore the health of our three other children," Nathan Toone said to members of the media Thursday.

Rachel, just 15 months old, was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Despite the family's fervent prayers, she died Tuesday.

Nathan and Brenda Toone — along with their other children, Cassidy, 9, and Braden, 7 — mourned their loss, while around them police and state officials investigated the possibility that a rat poison known as Fumitoxin, which was distributed into holes on the family's yard Friday morning, might be the cause.

Investigators suspect the Fumitoxin, which had been placed less than 10 feet from the Toones' front door, reacted with moisture to create deadly phosphine gas. The fumes found their way into the home through cracks and crevices in the structure.

The proximity of the rat pellets — which are supposed to be at least 15 feet away from an occupied building — is "a major concern," said Clark Burgess, pesticide program manager with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. Investigators have said criminal charges are possible.

"Obviously, there were violations by the applicator, as indicated by what we know so far," Burgess told the Deseret News, "but we need to do more investigation with the owner and at his site to determine if there are other violations."

Until toxicology reports come back within six to eight weeks, it's unknown whether the Bugman Pest & Lawn company the Toone family hired to exterminate voles played a part in Rebecca and Rachel's death.

Although the family has made no comment regarding the investigation or possible poisoning, they have said they feel grateful for the "tremendous outpouring of love" they have received from friends and strangers.

The Toones plan to celebrate their daughters' lives on Friday and Saturday.

Nathan Toone said his youngest daughter, even while sick in the hospital, "inspired others to want to be better."

"Many have questioned, 'How can they bear it? How can they go on? We testify that the atoning sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ, is sufficient to overcome our deepest sorrows and heaviest burdens," he said.

Yet when asked how he felt about what had gone wrong, he said even though closure had not come yet, he believed it eventually would, through "our faith and strength as a family."

"We will be able to move on with our lives and remember these two girls," he said. "We will have no long-term anger or resentment in our lives because of this."

For now, the family is finding peace with the thought that their beloved Rachel and Rebecca are together.