Gardai burst into blazing house and rescue girl (2) hiding under her cot
HEROIC gardai burst into a blazing house and found a two-year-old child cowering under her cot.
Maddie Gahan was last night fighting for her life at Crumlin Children's Hospital after being pulled from the burning building.
Neighbours told how they desperately tried to battle the blaze with a garden hose before gardai arrived and hauled Maddie from the house.
Two gardai, a neighbour and the six occupants of the house in Grange Crescent, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, were all treated in hospital after the fire broke out.
Neighbours suggested that bags full of clothes left outside the front door for collection may have been set alight by vandals.
However, the investigation into the cause of the fire was ongoing last night.
Sharon Gahan (30) and Anthony Maloney (31) were in bed at around 2am yesterday when their daughter Kelly noticed smoke in the house.
Helped by neighbours, the couple managed to escape through a rear upstairs bedroom window along with three daughters -- Kelly (13), Molly (7) and Sophie (6).
Neighbour Berty Crichton (28) went to the rear of the house and stood on the shoulders of Ray Charles and Darren Farrell.
"I stretched in and grabbed them and pulled them out," he said.
But the youngest child, Maddie -- who underwent open heart surgery for a cardiac condition last May -- was still inside.
Mr Crichton made five attempts to get Maddie out. "I got into the bedroom after that and just had to back out," he said. "I couldn't breathe, I couldn't see, not a thing."
Mr Crichton said Mr Maloney, neighbours and the gardai all took turns to try to rescue Maddie from the house.
"The guards, the armed response unit, one of them got in and got her," he said.
Maddie was taken by ambulance to the Midlands Regional Hospital at Mullingar before being transferred the Crumlin Children's Hospital where she remained in a serious condition yesterday.
Her father refused treatment at Mullingar and drove to Dublin to be with Maddie. He later received medical attention in St James's Hospital.
A close family member of Mr Maloney's said: "He is just in shock. Fair play to all the neighbours up there, they all ran up and only for them they'd have been arranging coffins now," the woman said.
"Sharon is in intensive care and the other three girls are in another room in the paediatric part," the woman added.
"Maddie, she's on a life-support machine at the moment because a lot of smoke is after going into her lungs."
Another close family member said it was "heartbreaking" to watch Mr Maloney and neighbours running into the house in search of Maddie.
"I heard them screaming in the back room and they woke me up. They were shouting for help," she said.
"I just hope that if it was deliberate something is done now," she added.
Superintendent John Gantly appealed for information in relation to the incident.
He said gardai had conducted door-to-door enquires and a forensic examination of the scene.
It is understood CCTV footage from a neighbour's house is also being examined by gardai.