Derrylin fatal fire: ‘God knows reasons, we do not yet’

Fire service and police forensic teams at the scene of a fire where a number of people were killed in a fire, one man was arrested
Fire service and police forensic teams at the scene of a fire where a number of people were killed in a fire, one man was arrested

A cleric has said it seems like only “God knows the reasons” why a catastrophic blaze came to engulf a home, claiming at least three lives.

Neighbours mounted a desperate but doomed bid to save a family from a blaze which reduced their rural home to ruins yesterday morning.

Emergency services near the scene of the tragic house fire at Molly Road, Derrylin

Emergency services near the scene of the tragic house fire at Molly Road, Derrylin

At least three people have died in what police suspect may be a case of murder.

Despite the enormity of the tragedy which has struck the “tight-knit” south Fermanagh farming community, many details about the fire remained unclear last night.

It is thought different generations of a family were killed.

After news of the catastrophe spread yesterday, accounts surfaced of attempts to rescue those inside the building on the outskirts of Derrylin village.

Catherine Fee, 27, said her father Tom owned the rented house. The student, who lives just a few minutes away, said he received a report of smoke coming from the property after 7am.

“My dad got up and went down to check,” she said.

“He tried to get into the house. They (her father and a neighbour) smashed the windows in trying to get into the house. It’s just so tragic, it’s an awful shock.”

At time of writing last night, a man, aged 27, was in police custody on suspicion of murder after having been arrested at the scene.

They said that “at least three people” were dead in what they believe was an act of arson.

Police cordoned off an area around the house, and had not revealed much about the identities of those who perished, including their ages.

Although the occupants of the house are understood to have lived in the area for up to 18 months, few people in the surrounding community knew anything about them.

However, it is thought they had previously lived in both England and the Republic.

Rev Alastair Donaldson, minister in the area’s Anglican parish, said: “Derrylin is a very tight-knit community. I think a lot of people are just in shock at what has happened.

“There’s a lot of difficult circumstances go on in the world.

“But God knows the reasons for why things happen.

“We don’t at the moment.”

Rev Donaldson added that he has been praying for “whatever family is left”.

Father Gerry Alwill, parish priest of Knockninny, covering Derrylin, said it is not known to which denomination – if any – the dead people belonged.

He also told of desperate rescue attempts, saying that he had spoken to the owner of the rented house during late morning.

Father Alwill said the man and a neighbour had used a sledgehammer to try and enter the property because “these new modern doors are very hard to break open”.

He said by the time these efforts were underway the building was already “well engulfed”, and it “just wasn’t possible”.

Whilst “naturally upset” by events, the priest said the owner went to work afterwards.

The isolated detached bungalow where the fire broke out is on a hill not far from the border, and it is understood it can be seen from the village of Derrylin.

Whilst no official account has been forthcoming, one local source told the News Letter the victims were a woman and her two children, one of whom was a woman aged in her 20s and the other a teenage boy.

The source also said an infant child may have been in the house when the fire broke out.

Sinn Fein councillor Barry Doherty said the property had been rented out and the occupants had been living there for between 12 to 18 months.

He told the News Letter that the victims were originally from Doncaster in England and had previously lived in the Republic of Ireland for a time before moving to Fermanagh.

“From local knowledge, we believe those who have died were generations of the one family,” Mr Doherty said.

The fire brigade said its officers took an emergency call about the fire at 7.14am.

Police tape yesterday sealed off the entrance to Molly Road, a rural lane just off the Doon Road.

It is understood the house affected is the only one in Molly Road, where there are also a number of farm buildings, surrounded by fields.

Fire engines and police cars came and went from the scene for most of the day.

Detective Superintendent Murphy appealed for anyone who was in the Molly Road/Doon Road area yesterday morning to contact police.