Mum tried to shield sons in blaze
THE families of two little boys who died in a Halloween house fire admitted their mother owes her life to a brave fireman and family friend.
The Punch-Ellard families last night revealed Stacey Ellard (26) was saved by the incredible courage of firefighters including family friend Robert Healy who was one of the first officers on the scene last Sunday.
Doug Punch, uncle of Calvin (4) and Cian (2) Ellard, who died after a fire engulfed their Wilton home in Cork, described the youngsters as "two little comics".
"They were two lovely kids -- they were the happiest boys I ever met," he said.
Mr Punch said his brother Ricky -- father of the two boys -- was devastated by the scale of the tragedy.
He revealed that Stacey -- after discovering the fire at her Elm Park home -- had desperately screamed for help after being trapped upstairs.
She had then tried to protect her two boys from the dense smoke and fumes after neighbours couldn't reach her.
"Stacey was shielding the two boys," he said.
The boys were later discovered gripped in her arms as she lay unconscious on her bed.
"Robert Healy is a guy me and Ricky grew up with," Mr Punch said. "He was our next-door neighbour. Robert didn't know until his sister broke the news to him who the people he had rescued were. He saved Stacey's life.
"The smoke was that bad they couldn't even see -- they had to find them by touch. We are indebted to him," he added.
The news of Calvin's death was broken to Stacey by Ricky at Cork University Hospital -- just hours after he had informed her of Cian's death.
"Stacey is out of intensive care -- she is in her own ward. She is battling, she is doing well and getting stronger ever day. She is going to pull through."
"My brother (Ricky) has such a bond with his fiancee that he never kept anything from her from day one," said Mr Punch. "How he has got through this I will never know. But he is staying strong for Stacey and for the family as well."
The family said they were appalled by hurtful suggestions that Ricky -- who is serving a custodial sentence for drugs offences and was granted temporary compassionate release -- didn't know his youngest son.
"That is not true -- he did. Ricky saw his sons a couple of times a week -- he had visits where he was able to interact with them," Mr Punch added.
"The gardai and fire brigade have put it down to an accidental fire. The families have accepted this. We never made a secret of what happened to Ricky. But to mention that in the same context of the tragedy is very hurtful," he added.
"There is only one true story -- two brave and beautiful boys were tragically taken within days of each other due to an accidental house fire. There is no other scenario nor will there be."
Funeral details of the two little boys will be announced later.