'In 30 years, I've never seen this scale, this level of tragedy' - Senior fire officer on Carrickmines blaze that left 10 dead
* Blaze left 10 dead, including five children
* Tragedy unfolded Saturday morning
* Brave teen (14) saved child's life
* Forensics teams continue investigation
Published 12/10/2015 | 02:30
A senior fire officer said a tragic blaze that left 10 people, including five children, dead was the worst he had ever seen in Dublin.
Assistant chief fire officer with Dublin Fire Brigade Denis Keeley described the Carrickmines fire in the early hours of Saturday morning as "the extreme end of anything I've dealt with in the past".
The tragedy unfolded at the site at around 4am on Saturday.
Flames tore through a portacabin, claiming the lives of two couples, five of their children, and another male.
The blaze quickly spread to a second home and left the victims with little chance of survival.
A five-month old baby was among the dead.
Those who died are from three generations of an extended Connors family, who are members of the Traveller community.
Nine died on the site - and one later on hospital.
Thomas Connors (27), his wife Sylvia (25), and three of their children - Jim (5), Christy (2) and five-month-old Mary - perished in the inferno.
"In 30 years, I've never seen this scale, this level of tragedy," Mr Denis Keeley told RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland.
"I'm almost 30 years with Dublin Fire Brigade and unfortunately, I have dealt with a large number of unfortunate tragedies in my career but this was at the extreme end of anything I've dealt with in the past."
Mr Keeley described how the fire crews were consistently updated about the severity of the blaze as they travelled to the scene.
It took the Dublin Fire Brigade just eight minutes to travel to the halting site on Glenamuck Road, in Carrickmines, Co Dublin.
"First, I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the staff to offer our sincere condolences to the family. Our thoughts are with all the family," Mr Keeley said.
"We got a call at approximately 4.25am on Saturday morning with reports of a fire in Carrickmines - our response team with mobilised, three water tenders and a number of specialised units.
"While en route, they would have been updated with information from the subsequent calls going through to emergency services.
"The crews were being informed of the severity of the fire, they could also see the extent of the fire as they travelled to the scene.
"On arrival, they could see that one unit was well alight. They faced a very difficult and extensive fire scene," he continued.
"The circumstances were horrific and there were some very distraught family members and friends at the scene.
"There were also a number of casualties at the scene.
"We mobilised additional resources - four standard units, or water tankers or engines as people would know them and five ambulances.
"Myself and other senior officers also travelled to the scene, we made it down there quite quickly.
"There were a large number of resources at the incident."
The scene of the tragedy was handed over to Garda Forensics teams at 9.20am, once the site was deemed safe.
"The Garda technical teams are still working on the scene, they have a very difficult task ahead fo them," Mr Keeley said,
"As you may have seen from some of the aerial photographs in the media coverage, it is a very difficult scene for the technical bureau.
"It is too early to give an indication of the cause of the incident.
"When our crews arrived at the scene, there was no indication that anything untoward had happened.
"I'm sure that gardai are keeping an open mind on this."
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Thomas's brother, Dan (19), said the death toll could have been greater if it wasn't for the quick thinking of his younger brother.
"My little brother braved the flames while the fire was raging.
"He's only 14 - but he saved the life of a child," he said.
"He ran in through the door, and passed two children out through the window, but one of them died.
"Thomas had very bad asthma, and he was on the floor before the fire even got to him.
"He must have collapsed from the toxic fumes and the smoke.
"My little brother tried to go in again to save more people, but the fire quickly went out of control. He nearly died himself - he couldn't breathe."
He said Thomas Connors "absolutely loved his wife and children".
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"They were married for seven years and moved to the site from Clondalkin a couple of months ago.
"They planned to remain living in this location and raise their family.
"There was a total of 11 in the shed - but nobody knows for sure what caused the fire.
"We were in Enniskerry when we got a phone call telling us what had happened.
"We came straight here and everything was on fire."
Sylvia's brother Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27), and their children Jodie (9), and four-year-old Kelsey also died in the tragedy.
Tara was four months pregnant with the couple's third child.
The "doting father" had planned to take Kelsey, who had started pre-school in August, hunting with him over the weekend, according to his cousin, Sarah.
Jodie was "so bright and so clever and always so full of fun," Sarah added.
Mr Lynch's brother, Jimmy (39), was the tenth victim.
Margaret Donohue, Thomas Connors's second cousin, said her sister phoned her with the devastating news.
"It's just such a heartbreak for so many people.
"This will affect the travelling community a lot," said the mother of twelve from Lucan.
"It's really tragic. They're saying the young girl, Tara - she was pregnant - was running around like a human fireball.
"She was screaming… trying to quench the flames.
"I'm thinking did her screams wake everybody else up?"
She said the family are "in the dark" as to what happened.
"Did somebody drop a cigarette? We don't know.
"Sylvia and Tom have two surviving children. It's just so sad that they'll grow up without parents, no mam and no dad."
The Lynch family are believed to have been staying with the Connors - who had lived at the site for eight years - to attend a family gathering, thought to be a christening.
Southside Traveller Action Group said accommodation for those left homeless by the fire is being arranged by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.
A fund to help the 14 people who have been made homeless by the tragedy is being coordinated by the Vincent De Paul society.
Flags on Government buildings will fly at half-mast during the funerals of the Carrickmines fire victims, the Taoiseach said yesterday.
It was also announced that a book of condolence for the victims will be opened today by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Críona Ní Dhálaigh at the Mansion House/
Last night, two children remain in hospital.
One is in a stable condition, while another is in a serious but stable condition.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Denis Kiely, of Dublin Fire Brigade, said emergency personnel have been offered specialist medical intervention, to cope with possible long-term psychological problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
"We've put in train a process in to manage critical incident stress. That process kicks in immediately after something like this," he said.
"That goes for the operations staff who were here and the control room staff."
Tánaiste Joan Burton said she was "deeply saddened" by the deaths and expressed her sympathies to the families involved.