'Ash was coming down on top of us'

Parisians and tourists watch as the fire engulfs the historic Notre Dame cathedral on Monday evening. Photo by Loretto O’ Sullivan
Parisians and tourists watch as the fire engulfs the historic Notre Dame cathedral on Monday evening. Photo by Loretto O’ Sullivan

Fergus Dennehy

A Kerry family who were eye witnesses to the fire which ripped through the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on Monday evening have described just how surreal it was to stand there and see this iconic site going up in flames.

Loretto O'Sullivan, who had completed the Paris marathon on Sunday, was in the city with her husband Terry and their children when the fire broke out. Having just visited the Eiffel Tower, the family were coming back in a taxi when they saw the flames and plumes of smoke rising high into the Parisian skyline and they rushed straight to the scene. "I actually couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe what was happening and what was unfolding in front of us. We were all silent. Nobody was talking to anyone," said Loretto speaking to The Kerryman on Tuesday.

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"We were just looking up and looking at the smoke and the ash was coming down on top of us and my daughter was coughing with all the smoke. Everyone was just in shock. The police were there keeping everyone back," she continued. Loretto's husband Terry, also from Tralee, but who worked as a firefighter in San Francisco, said that he knew straight away the difficult task facing the Paris firefighters. "You could see the red flame and I knew it was high up. There wasn't much that the firefighters there could do. I'd say whatever happened, the fire took off fairly fast," he said.

"It's very high up so it would have been very difficult to get water on it. Church fires are some of the hardest to put out because there's no way you can get up high enough and you have this one big open space." "It was  incredible to watch. We could feel the intense heat coming from the fire to where we were standing about 150 feet away," he said.

Kerryman

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