Monday 24 October 2016

Heroic Irish rock band save children from devastating US house fire

Kevin Jenkinson

Published 23/05/2016 | 07:34

Dissension Rising, the scene of the fire
Dissension Rising, the scene of the fire
Kweith Garrett, Danni Carroll, Kian Johnston and Rob Higgins

An Irish rock band have been praised for saving over a dozen people from a raging house fire in the US - including an eight-month-old baby and three other children aged under five.

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Dissension Rising were in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as part of their six-week ‘Retribution’ EP tour when they escaped the blaze after waking up to the sound of a smoke alarm at a friend’s house where they were staying.

The hard-rockers, aged 17 to 21, and their management team - all from Kildare and Longford - woke up their four New Jersey friends in the old wood-framed house on Newport Avenue and guided them to safety as thick black smoke and flames spread through the property at 5.30am on Saturday May 14.

When they got outside they heard screams coming from a basement apartment below the house where there were five children, all aged under five, and four adults trying to escape.

The blaze in New Jersey
The blaze in New Jersey

Singer Danni Carroll (18), lead guitarist Keith Garrett (21), drummer Kian Johnston (17), rhythm guitarist Rob Higgins (20), manager Dorothea Carroll (57) and driver Justin Carroll (42) rushed to their aid.

Justin, from Kilmeague, Co Kildare, said: “It was getting hard to see and breath, but once we knew we had everyone who was in the house downstairs we ran out.

Kweith Garrett, Danni Carroll, Kian Johnston and Rob Higgins
Kweith Garrett, Danni Carroll, Kian Johnston and Rob Higgins

“But we didn't realise there was another family who lived in the basement until Danni shouted she could hear screams.

“Danni and Keith ran around the back of the house followed by myself Mr. Vasquez [the father of the family who lived upstairs].

“We could hear screaming.There were flames at the rear of the house coming through the walls.

“We were met by a woman carrying a child. Danni asked if anyone else was in the house and she said ‘yes, the kids are in there.’

“There was panic inside the apartment, which was quickly filling with smoke. 

“A policeman had just arrived on the scene and the officer, Mr Vasquez and myself started getting people out of there and handing them over to Danni , Keith, Kian and Rob, who guided the women with babies and children to the car as they were in night-clothes.

“They were in shock and the babies were crying. Rob and Kian stayed with them.

“It was chaos, but all the band wanted to do was help and get everyone out.

“Outside there was heartbreak as people were crying and upset.

“One elderly lady was in her night clothes and was distraught and hysterical. Her son had died last year and his ashes were still in the house.”

According to local media reports, 27 fire-fighters responded and had the fire under control within two hours.

There were no reported injuries, but the cost of the damage to the property and its contents were estimated at over €400,000.

Justin said: “The fire seems to have started as an electrical fire in the walls and spread to the rest of the house and into the roof.

“The house was destroyed and they lost pretty much everything including a recording studio and all instruments on the third floor worth over $20,000 [€17,820].”

Recalling the young Irish band's actions during the emergency, he added: “They were absolutely selfless and an inspiration.

“The families and the fire brigade involved all kept saying to everyone that if we had not been there or if we had not reacted when and how we did ten minutes later everyone would be dead from smoke inhalation.”

Dissension Rising, who return to Ireland this week, had to leave their rescued friends to continue with their tour, which included a gig at the Jersey Shore Festival in New Jersey, but have kept in touch with the family.

They are donating the proceeds from their band merchandise to a fundraiser, which has been organised for June 3 at the Boneyard Bar in Atlantic City.

The families made homeless after the blaze were helped find accomdoation by the Red Cross, but there is a Go Fund Me page set up to help them find a new home and donations can be made here

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