THE toddler who perished in a blaze at his home was found in his mother's arms.
Cian Ellard (2) was found lifeless lying on top of his mother Stacey (26) in the house in the Wilton area of Cork, with his four-year-old brother Calvin lying beside them.
Fire crews started CPR on the mum and her two sons, even as they were being rushed down the stairs to paramedics. But little Cian was pronounced dead in Cork University Hospital a short time later.
A brother of Stacey's has said they don't know how they are going to break the news of Cian's death. She is said to be in a coma and fighting for her life.
Calvin has made a miraculous recovery, opening his eyes in hospital just 15 hours after being taken unconscious from the burning terraced house.
"We're devastated little Cian is gone. I don't know how we're going to tell Stacey," said her brother Wayne. "It's not something you ever want to wake up to, and I don't know how we'll pick up the pieces.
"It's just a waiting game, so we just have to be there for them when they come round. I'm too tired to think right now but we're grateful Stacey and Calvin have come out alive."
Experts believe the fire started in the kitchen, either a cooker was left on or there was an electrical fault.
The young family were asleep upstairs when the fire broke out at 4am yesterday.
Stacey's neighbours raised the alarm and kicked in the door of the house, as well as breaking the front window, but they were beaten back by thick smoke and flames and could not get into the house.
"We couldn't figure out the source of the smoke because everything was just pitch black. We banged and banged on the door but there was no response at all," said a next-door neighbour.
"My partner kicked in the door and tried to run up the stairs to get them, or at least one of them, out but the smoke was too bad," she added."I couldn't even get two steps up the stairs."
Neighbours described Stacey as a 'lovely chatty girl' who moved into the rented Elm Park house only six months ago.
Cork City Fire Brigade's Edward Buckley said one crew fought the blaze downstairs while another went upstairs to rescue the occupants.
"There were a lot of sad men going home this morning. One child showed signs of response very early, possibly the mother did as well. Unfortunately, one child was a fatality," he added.
The boy's heartbroken father Ricky Punch was told about the news yesterday morning.
His is currently serving a sentence in Cork Prison for drug possession and was being comforted by the prison chaplain.