Neighbours in Nelson Street, Wrexham, North Wales, struggled against smoke and flames in an attempt to rescue seven children, aged between 18 months and 12 years.
Driven away from ladders by the heat, they threw bricks to smash an upstairs window of the modern terraced house, but the youngsters were too scared to jump to safety. Firefighters had to bring the ground-floor fire under control before they could reach three-year-old twins, Stephen and Robert Davies, Phillip Foulkes, seven, Matthew Foulkes, eight, and a family friend, Louise Jones, 12.
Despite reports that the children were overcome by heat and toxic fumes from a burning settee filled with polyurethane, a spokesman for Clwyd Fire Service said it would be several days before the exact cause was known.
The only members of the family to be rescued were half-sisters Heather Davies, 18 months, and Sarah Foulkes, 12. The children's mother, Mandy Davies, 33, jumped to safety from a window. Her partner, Dennis Deverey, 63, father of Stephen, Robert and Heather, escaped to raise the alarm and joined neighbours in their frantic efforts to save the family. Later, relatives had to tell Wayne Foulkes, 14, who was not in the house yesterday, that four of his brothers had died.
Neighbours were alerted at 9am by Mr Deverey's screams. When they went to investigate they found flames coming out of both the ground and first floor windows.
Jason Gavan, 24, and his father were the first to try to coax the children down. He said: "We raced round to the back of the house and two girls were at the bedroom window. A boy was trying to get to the other back window. They moved back and we smashed a window.
"I shouted to them to jump and we'd catch them, but all the time they were being engulfed in more smoke. Eventually all I could see was their eyes. They were obviously so scared. After 30 seconds more the screaming stopped. I will never forget that moment. Then it got so hot in the garden that we had to get out."
Both half-sisters were in a critical condition with severe burns in Alderhey hospital, Liverpool, last night. Their mother was in a serious condition in a Wrexham hospital with a broken leg. Mr Deverey was being treated for several injuries.Reuse content