Stafford fire: Four children killed as blaze tears through house

'The flames were coming out that bad, there was nothing you could have done – even with a ladder', neighbour says

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 05 February 2019 09:27 GMT
BBC News reporter told by witnesses they saw a man jumping out of a window with a baby after four children die in Stafford house fire

Four children have died in a house fire in Stafford, which also left two adults and a fifth child in hospital.

A neighbour said it looked like “a sheet of fire” was coming out of a bedroom window.

The children who died were named locally as Riley, Keegan, Tilly and Olly – aged between three and eight.

Neighbours said the siblings’ two-year-old brother Jack had survived the blaze along with his mother, Natalie Unitt , and her partner Chris.

The injuries to the survivors are not believed to be life-threatening, Staffordshire Police said.

Officers and emergency services were called to reports of a fire in the Highfields area at 2.40am on Tuesday.

A neighbour described how a sheet of flames engulfed an upstairs window at the semi-detached property.

Photo issued by Staffordshire Police of (left to right) Keegan Unitt, 6, Tilly Unitt, 4, Olly Unitt, 3, and their older brother Riley Holt, 8 (far right), (pictured with a younger sibling, second right), who have been named as the four children who died in a house fire at their home in Stafford
Photo issued by Staffordshire Police of (left to right) Keegan Unitt, 6, Tilly Unitt, 4, Olly Unitt, 3, and their older brother Riley Holt, 8 (far right), (pictured with a younger sibling, second right), who have been named as the four children who died in a house fire at their home in Stafford (PA)

“We heard a bang and looked out of the back window upstairs,” they told the Press Association.

“At the start it was just a sheet of fire coming out of the bedroom window. It seemed to take ages for the fire brigade to arrive – it seemed like forever.

“The neighbours came out and drove their car out of the back garden and there were lots of fire engines and police.”

Neighbour Bryan Pickering, who lives around 40 yards from the scene of the fire, was among those who contacted the emergency services after spotting the blaze.

“We were straight on to 999,” he said. “The flames were coming out that bad, there was nothing you could have done – even with a ladder.”

Chief Inspector John Owen, of Staffordshire Police, described the fire as “absolutely heartbreaking”.

Firefighters are examining the scene and police are investigating how the fire started. Part of the roof has collapsed, with the windows smashed and the inside blackened by smoke.

A spokesperson for West Midlands Ambulance Service said: “When crews arrived they found an ongoing serious house fire. Three occupants, two adults and a child, had managed to get out of the property.

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“All three patients were assessed and treated on scene by ambulance staff for non-life threatening injuries before being taken to hospital for further care.

“Tragically, four children from the property were confirmed dead on scene.

“Our thoughts are with the family at this exceptionally difficult time.”

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