A groom and his best man helped in the rescue of a woman in her 70s from a fire at her Co Down home just hours before the wedding ceremony.
The pensioner’s house at Windsor Close in Waringstown was targeted in an arson attack late on Thursday night.
Groom Robyn McClimond, brother-in-law Stephen Jennett, best man Alan Harrison, his pregnant wife Kelly, and friend Keith Morrison, were travelling home from a pre-wedding gathering around 11.40pm when they noticed flames billowing from the front door of a house.
Kelly immediately stopped the car and Robyn, who was due to be married the following day, phoned 999.
Alan said: “Robyn rang 999, and the next thing we were alerting the neighbours to get out and they said there was an elderly lady who lives in that house.
“There was no way you could get through the front door with the flames so we ran around the back and started beating at the back door. But the woman wasn’t answering. Kelly started to throw pebbles up at the upstairs back window to get her attention.”
Alan then obtained a neighbour’s ladder and by this stage, the pensioner had become aware of the blaze.
“She put her head out the window and I got ladder from her next door neighbour and climbed up it to her bedroom window,” Alan said. “I couldn’t get her out the window, so I just tried to comfort her and talk her through it until the fire service arrived. I was trying to keep her head out the window to make sure she got fresh air. She could not understand what had happened and she was a bit confused.”
Two police officers arrived on the scene first, and then the fire brigade.
“If felt like forever till they arrived, but it was only five minutes,” said Kelly. “When the lady got her window opened the smoke that was coming out was frightening.”
Alan added: “It was scary how quickly the black smoke filled the house. When the fire service arrived they started tackling the blaze at the front and one of them came around the back.
“At that stage I came down the ladder and he went up.”
When the blaze was eventually put out, firefighters were able to take the lady out the front door.
Alan said there was no hesitation from anyone.
“Robyn had no fears either, he was very selfless, the most important thing for us was that the woman got out safe and sound,” he added.
After the drama, Robyn, 42 got married the following day at Waringstown Presbyterian Church.
DUP Upper Bann MLA Carla Lockhart said the incident had shocked the local community.
“This could have cost a life or indeed lives with other residents’ properties having been damaged,” she said. “I would encourage anyone who has information to come forward to the PSNI and report it.
“Those involved must face the full force of the law and therefore local intelligence is imperative to get a better picture of the events leading up to it.”