Wednesday 26 July 2017

Double tragedy as fire kills father and son

Community in shock after deaths of popular local men in apartment blaze

Early morning horror: Firefighters clearing up at the scene of the fire yesterday in the centre of Sligo town Photo: James Connolly
Early morning horror: Firefighters clearing up at the scene of the fire yesterday in the centre of Sligo town Photo: James Connolly

Marese McDonagh

A father and son were killed in a fire in the centre of Sligo town yesterday.

Local people were shocked as they awoke to the news of the double tragedy, which happened in Market Street in the early hours. The deceased were named locally as Sonny Harte, who was in his 60s, and his son Sean (32), who were from a large and well-known Sligo family

Gardai said that six people were rescued from adjoining apartments. They were treated for smoke inhalation, but none of them suffered life-threatening injuries.

Post mortems were carried out on the deceased yesterday afternoon.

Sligo county councillor Gino O'Boyle, who knew both men, had been speaking to them yesterday. He said that Sean had moved into the Market Street apartment in recent months. It is understood that the two men had been socialising together and Sonny was spending the night with his son.

"I met Sean yesterday. He was in good form - he was always in good form," said Cllr O'Boyle, who went to primary school with the younger man. He said he had also spoken to Sonny on the phone yesterday.

The alarm was raised shortly before 5am. It is understood that gardai do not suspect that the fire was suspicious.

The two men were removed from the scene to Sligo University Hospital where they were pronounced dead.

Local councillor Declan Bree, who lives in an adjoining street, said people in the town were shocked.

"This is a terrible tragedy. These men are from a very highly respected local family," he said. "People are struggling to come to terms with this. Our thoughts and sympathy are with the family," added Cllr Bree, who said it was a heavy burden for a family to lose two members in such circumstances.

The apartment was at the back of a three-storey building, over a vacant shop, close to the Grattan Street/Castle Street junction, near the well-known landmark, the Lady Erin statue.

The building was sealed off as gardai carried out an examination yesterday.

Local man Mehall Smyth, from St Brigid's Place, said Sonny Harte had been his neighbour and was from a much-loved family. "I live two doors from the Harte family and they are a beautiful family. Sonny was a lovely fellow. I used to bring him fishing when he was a young lad and I brought his son Michael fishing."

It has emerged that the fire broke out not long after the two men returned to the apartment block in the early hours. Cllr O'Boyle, who knew both men, said that a friend had walked them home, and when he passed the building about half an hour later, fire crews were on the scene.

"He smelled smoke and came back down the street. He actually saw them being brought out but did not realise at first who it was. You don't think the worst", said Cllr O'Boyle

Sonny Harte is survived by two children, another son, Michael, and a daughter, Shelly, who runs a hairdressing salon close to the scene.

Adrian Toher, who works in a shop on nearby Grattan Street, said many people arriving into work in the town early yesterday morning did not realise there had been a tragedy until they saw the area cordoned off.

"Everyone was really shocked to learn that two people have died," he said.

Sligo chief fire officer Gerry O'Malley confirmed that the fire started on the first floor. The men were staying in a second storey apartment.

Sunday Independent

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