Saturday 29 April 2017

'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

Taosieach Enda Kenny TD at the scene of a fire which resulted in the deaths of 10 people at a halting site on Glenamuck Road South, Carrickmines, Dublin
Taosieach Enda Kenny TD at the scene of a fire which resulted in the deaths of 10 people at a halting site on Glenamuck Road South, Carrickmines, Dublin
Margaret Donohue who was related to the Connors at the scene of where ten people from the traveller community died in the blaze that broke out at a halting site on Glenamuck Road in the early hours of Saturday morning
Flowers & messages of support at the scene of a fire which resulted in the deaths of 10 people at a halting site on Glenamuck Road South, Carrickmines, Dublin
People lay flowers to pay their respects at the scene of where ten people from the traveller community died in the blaze that broke out at a halting site on Glenamuck Road in the early hours of Saturday morning
Members of the public at the scene of a fire which resulted in the deaths of 10 people in a halting site on Glenamuck Road South, Carrickmines , Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
People gather as toys and flowers are left at the halting site
The aftermath of the fire in Carrickmines, in which 10 people were killed
Couple Thomas Connors & Sylvia (Lynch) Connors on their wedding day
Relatives of the deceased, Francis McDonald, with his daughter Margaret Donohue and her son Josh at a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Local parishioners are to fund raise for the victims of a blaze which claimed 10 lives in Ireland, a Catholic priest has said. See PA story IRISH Halting. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Toys and flowers are left at a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Local parishioners are to fund raise for the victims of a blaze which claimed 10 lives in Ireland, a Catholic priest has said. See PA story IRISH Halting. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Flowers are left at a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Local parishioners are to fund raise for the victims of a blaze which claimed 10 lives in Ireland, a Catholic priest has said. See PA story IRISH Halting. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A man and his dog outside a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A forensics officer walks past toys and flowers left at a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People gather as toys and flowers are left at a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Local parishioners are to fund raise for the victims of a blaze which claimed 10 lives in Ireland, a Catholic priest has said. See PA story IRISH Halting. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People gather as toys and flowers are left at a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A local priest leads a prayer at a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Local parishioners are to fund raise for the victims of a blaze which claimed 10 lives in Ireland, a Catholic priest has said. See PA story IRISH Halting. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Local parishioners are to fund raise for the victims of a blaze which claimed 10 lives in Ireland, a Catholic priest has said. See PA story IRISH Halting. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to locals at a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Local parishioners are to fund raise for the victims of a blaze which claimed 10 lives in Ireland, a Catholic priest has said. See PA story IRISH Halting. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A woman arrives to leave flowers close to the scene of a fire in Carrickmines, Dublin, Ireland, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015. Ten people from two Irish Gypsy families, half of them children, died Saturday when their mobile homes caught fire before dawn. Detectives said it was too early to determine a cause for Irelands deadliest fire in 34 years. The death toll highlighted the often crowded, ramshackle living conditions for the homegrown Gypsy minority, who in Ireland are called Travellers. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
A woman leaves flowers outside a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Toys and flowers are left at a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Assistant chief fire officer Dennis Keeley at a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Chief fire officer Pat Fleming (left) and assistant chief fire officer Dennis Keeley at a halting site for travellers in Carrickmines, south Dublin, where ten people from two families, including a mother, father and a five-month-old baby, were killed in a fire yesterday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 11, 2015. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Denise Calnan and Mark O'Regan

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.

DEVASTATION: An aerial photograph shows the utter devastation at the scene from the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, that claimed the lives of 10 people including pregnant mum Tara Gilbert, her partner Willie Lynch and their two daughters Kelsey and Jodie
DEVASTATION: An aerial photograph shows the utter devastation at the scene from the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, that claimed the lives of 10 people including pregnant mum Tara Gilbert, her partner Willie Lynch and their two daughters Kelsey and Jodie

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.

A tragic claimed the lives of 10 people including pregnant mum Tara Gilbert, her partner Willie Lynch and their two daughters Kelsey and Jodie
A tragic claimed the lives of 10 people including pregnant mum Tara Gilbert, her partner Willie Lynch and their two daughters Kelsey and Jodie

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.

Flowers & messages of support at the scene of a fire which resulted in the deaths of 10 people at a halting site on Glenamuck Road South, Carrickmines, Dublin
Flowers & messages of support at the scene of a fire which resulted in the deaths of 10 people at a halting site on Glenamuck Road South, Carrickmines, Dublin

"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.

People gather as toys and flowers are left at the halting site
People gather as toys and flowers are left at the halting site

"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.

People gather at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning
People gather at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning
Floral tributes at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines yesterday. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Fr. Derek Farrell, Parish Priest of the Parish of the Travelling Community looks at floral tributes at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines yesterday. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
A well wisher brings flowers to the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines yesterday. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Floral tributes at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines yesterday. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
The ambulance hearse at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines where it was bringing away the bodies of the deceased victims. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
The ambulance hearse leaves the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines where it was bringing away the bodies of the deceased victims. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
An ambulance containing the bodies of the victims leaves the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, yesterday evening. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
The ambulance hearse leaves the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines where it was bringing away the bodies of the deceased victims. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
A garda lays flowers at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Fire Officer Denis Keely and Garda Superintendent Martin Fitzgerald and Chief Superintendent Diarmuid O'Sullivan at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Fire Officers Gerry Stanley and Denis Keely and Garda Superintendent Martin Fitzgerald and Chief Superintendent Diarmuid O'Sullivan at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
A garda lays flowers at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Garda Superintendent Martin Fitzgerald and Chief Superintendent Diarmuid O'Sullivan at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
A garda lays flowers at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
State Pathologist Margaret Bolster arrives at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Garda Superintendent Martin Fitzgerald and Chief Superintendent Diarmuid O'Sullivan at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Minister Alex White at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Gardai at the entrance to the halting site where the tragic fire occured at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
State Pathologist Margaret Bolster arrives at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Sandyford Parish Priest Fr. Gerry Moore, left, at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
A garda brings flowers to the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Local TD Shane Ross talks to Gardai at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Well wishers brings flowers to the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Gardai and fire services at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Gardai forensic services at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Independent TD's Peter Matthews and Shane Ross at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Local TD Shane Ross talks to Gardai at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Local TD Shane Ross at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Gardai and fire services at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
A well wisher brings flowers at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Gardai and fire services at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Gardai and fire services at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.

"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.

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"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." 

Courage

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.

Tragedy

"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.

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"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.

Irish Independent

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