Friday 22 September 2017

Devoted couple who died alongside sick relative in London fire to be flown home for burial

Aftermath of fire that claimed the lives of couple Joe and Anne Whelan and Joe’s brother Jim
Aftermath of fire that claimed the lives of couple Joe and Anne Whelan and Joe’s brother Jim
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A kind-hearted Irish couple who died in a London fire alongside a sick relative they were caring for will be flown home for burial.

Final arrangements are now being made to repatriate the remains of Joe (74) and Anne (68) Whelan to Cobh, Co Cork from London.

Both died in an accidental house fire at the Hornchurch property outside Romford, Essex of Joe’s older brother, Jim (76) on February 6.

Jim Whelan, who had been in poor health over recent months, also died in the tragedy.

Mrs Whelan was pronounced dead at the scene in the early hours of last Monday.

Her husband lost his battle for life in a London hospital the following day.

Jim Whelan died from the effects of smoke inhalation a few hours later.

The bodies of the retired couple will now be flown back to Cork Airport once all London coroner requirements are completed in Romford, Essex.

It is hoped that their Requiem Mass will be staged in Cobh’s St Colman’s Cathedral later this week.

London police confirmed the fire is being treated as a tragic accident.

“Following an investigation by the police and London Fire Brigade, no evidence of a suspicious (cause for) the fire was uncovered,” a spokesperson said.

The Whelan family has thanked the public for their overwhelming sympathy and support.

Joe and Anne's son, Hugh, who immediately flew to London on hearing of the tragedy, thanked Irish and UK people for their incredible support.

“Thank you one and all for your kind words and support. I will, in time, thank everyone individually,” he posted on social media.

“Thank you for the kind words - they have been, and are, a great source of comfort to us,” he added.

The two brothers were originally from Dublin.

Jim Whelan had spent his entire adult life in the UK.

Joe Whelan had served for a time with the Naval Service in the 1950s before setting up home in Cobh.

His wife, Anne, nee Gannon, is from Cobh.

The couple lived on the Tay Road outside the Cork harbour town and were described by neighbours as “totally devoted to each other.”

Joe and Anne Whelan had flown to London to look after Jim Whelan for a few days at his home.

Mr Whelan had a number of health issues including a bad back.

The fire erupted in the early hours of last Monday morning at the mid-terraced property.

A total of four fire brigade units attended the scene from Hornchurch, Dagenham and Romford with 22 officers battling the blaze.

London City Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton described it as a terrible tragedy.

“My thoughts and those of everyone at the brigade are with the friends and family of the three people who died following the tragic fire in Hornchurch,” he said.

“Fire fighters worked extremely hard and did all they could in the circumstances.”

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