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$10K raised for 4 boys killed in Ozarks fire as dad mourns loss of his fishing buddies

Travis Otto (center) poses with his father, Kenneth Otto, and his four sons. The boys were all found dead early Thursday morning after a fire at their home in Lake Ozark, Mo.
Travis Otto (center) poses with his father, Kenneth Otto, and his four sons. The boys were all found dead early Thursday morning after a fire at their home in Lake Ozark, Mo. Courtesy of the family

Not long after hearing that all four of his children, all boys, had died in a fire at their mother's house, Travis Otto went fishing.

It's something he would regularly do with his sons — Tyler Otto, 14; Cason Otto, 8; Max Otto, 5; and Levi Otto, 4 — out on the Osage River or along the banks of small farm ponds in the Ozarks.

"His greatest goal in life was to help them become good people," said Kelly Kampeter, a close friend to Otto who spoke on his behalf. "And he succeeded quite early."

Otto, who said it was too difficult to speak to media, sat down with Kampeter on Friday and described his boys. The friend, using Otto's words, memorialized the boys in a Facebook post made Saturday.

Levi, the youngest, was the father's "diehard fishing buddy who always knew when fish would be biting," Otto told his friend.

Levi would often say, "I'm just like you, Dad, see?"

Neighbors describe the scene where four brothers who were home alone were found dead after an early morning fire destroyed their house Thursday in Lake Ozark, Mo. The Otto children were identified as Tyler, 14; Cason,8; Max, 5; and Levi,4.

Max would help his father build things and was "so sweet he'd give you a toothache."

Cason could catch minnows with his bare hands and often emulated Tyler. Cason loved hooking giant fish, walking in the woods and adding to his rock collection.

Tyler loved to hunt and fish, and he was a role model to his younger brothers.

Now Otto's fishing buddies are gone.

But he wants to preserve their memory by organizing outdoor activities in the coming months.

"He plans to have several events in honor of his boys where he can give back to the youth of the community and share his boys' love of the outdoors," Kampeter said. "Spending time with others, turning off screens and appreciating all nature has to offer."

The boys were found dead early Thursday morning in a house fire in Lake Ozark, Mo. Fire officials believe the blaze may have started on the facade of the house due to a stray ember from a barbecue pit, according to the boys' aunt, Angie Lawrence.

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The home where the four Otto children died early Thursday morning in a house fire in Lake Ozark, Mo. ALLISON LONG along@kcstar.com

The boys' mother, Tina Brazil, arrived home to find their two-story home on the banks of McCoy Branch Cove burning. She screamed for her children, and her boyfriend had to be restrained by five firefighters to keep him from running into the home, a neighbor said.

Otto, who moved in with his father in Westphalia after he and Brazil divorced, drove to Lake Ozark most Fridays and the boys would come running and yell, "Dad!" before piling into his truck, Kampeter wrote.

The father would post pictures of his sons as they enjoyed late-night "cookie monsters." He often captioned the photos, "cheese and sprinkles," his unique way of saying, "Smile for the camera," Kampeter said.

"Travis has achieved his greatest wishes: He is an amazing dad and raised four boys that were good people," Kampeter wrote. "I can’t think of a more simple or profound goal."

She started a fundraiser on Saturday. In a few hours, people donated more than $10,000 toward a $20,000 goal for a memorial fund for the boys and for funeral expenses.

The brothers, Kampeter wrote, were "inseparable and still are."

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