FOUR siblings, including a two-year-old boy, died in a house fire at their mother's birthday party -- amid claims that they were left behind by other guests when the blaze broke out.
Reece Smith (19), four-year-old twins Holly and Ella Smith, and their brother Jordan (2), died after a fire broke out in a bedroom of their converted bungalow late on Saturday night.
Their mother Michelle Smith was hosting her 36th birthday party at the house, and it is believed that some guests fled when they noticed the fire at about 11.30pm.
It is thought that Reece died after battling the flames trying to save his brother and sisters.
Last night police and the fire brigade were still trying to establish how the fire started, although it is thought arson is unlikely.
The fire was largely contained in just one of the bedrooms.
It is thought that at least some of the casualties were taken from a small attic room at the rear of the converted building.
Police are trying to track down people who attended the party, but who left before officers arrived.
Ms Smith was said to have been helped from her home, in Freckleton, Lancashire, by firefighters, but was uninjured.
The four children were taken to hospital in Preston suffering from smoke inhalation, but were pronounced dead on arrival.
Ms Smith's father, Keith Smith (56), told how he learned of the fire on the news and rushed round to the house, only to learn of the deaths of four of his grandchildren.
Mr Smith said: "I turned on the news and heard there had been a fire at a house in Lytham Road. I turned cold and knew it was Michelle's house.
"I rushed down here straight away, all the time wishing it wasn't going to be true. But when I got here my worst nightmare came true. When I got here I could see it was. My heart sank and my blood drained."
"I'm still trying to take it all in. They were smashing kids. The last time I saw them was at Christmas."
Ms Smith has nine children in total.
One of Ms Smith's other children, 20-year-old Andy Smith, arrived to see firefighters at his mother's home.
Breaking down in tears, he said: "It was only when I came back in the morning that I was told four of my brothers and sisters had died."
Another member of the family said: "The children's bedroom must have filled with smoke as the party carried on. When the alarm was raised some just ran, but Reece died trying to save his brother and sisters."
It is understood that officers are now investigating to see whether smoke alarms in the property were working.
Yesterday afternoon Ms Smith returned to the house. Crying and smoking a cigarette, she stared at her home for several minutes before reading the cards on floral tributes left on the garden wall. (© Daily Telegraph, London)