'Vandals not to blame' for blaze at house
THE fire at a home from which a two-year-old child was dramatically rescued earlier this week was not started maliciously, gardai now believe.
It had been previously suggested that bags of clothes left at the front door for a charity collection could have been set alight in an act of vandalism.
However, investigators believe the fire began inside the home and are examining potential causes such as an electrical appliance.
Mother-of-four Sharon Gahan (30) and her two-year-old toddler Maddie -- who underwent open-heart surgery last May -- remained in intensive care last night, with anxious relatives at their bedside.
Five gardai and neighbours were hailed as heroes for repeatedly braving the suffocating smoke from the semi-detached home in Grange Crescent, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, to rescue the child in the early hours of Monday morning.
Maddie was eventually found hiding under her cot.
Gardai carried the toddler straight into an ambulance after neighbours had already helped her mother, father Anthony Maloney (31) and sisters Kelly (13), Molly (7) and Sophie (6) out through a back window.
Garda forensic officers yesterday continued their investigations at the scene of the fire, which took hold in the hall and front door of the home in the early hours of Monday.
Supt John Gantly said the investigation was at an early stage but it did not appear to be malicious.
Forensic officers removed items from the house for further laboratory tests.
Mr Maloney was yesterday at Maddie's bedside in Crumlin Children's Hospital where her condition was understood to be stable, while Ms Gahan's condition at Mullingar Regional Hospital was also understood to have slightly improved.
Gardai were also treated for burns to their eyes from the smoke, while next-door neighbour Bertie Crichton (28) -- who was first on the scene -- was treated for smoke inhalation.
"We wish the family all the best, and our own people in their recovery, and are thankful a life was saved," Supt Gantly said.
Mr Crichton told how gardai tried "10 or 15 times" to go up the stairs and check various rooms to find the child.
The neighbour who also entered the home said they could not see and had to feel their way around due to the dense smoke.