Derry man describes house fire rescue drama

Sean McLaughlin saved two people in the house fire at Altcar Park in Galliagh.
Sean McLaughlin saved two people in the house fire at Altcar Park in Galliagh.

A Derry man has described how he dashed into a burning bungalow and pulled a couple from their bedroom to safety.

Sean McLaughlin was on his way home shortly after 10pm on Saturday night with his partner when he heard a fire alarm going off in a nearby property in Altcar Park in Galliagh.

The rear of the bungalow damaged in a fire in the Altcar Park area of Galliagh. DER0917GS003

The rear of the bungalow damaged in a fire in the Altcar Park area of Galliagh. DER0917GS003

“I said to my partner it sounded very close, and then I looked across the street and saw smoke coming up from what I thought at the time was the chimney but it was coming out of the house. There were yellow flames coming down from the bungalow so I dropped everything and ran over,” the 33-year-old told the ‘Journal’.

“I went into the bungalow and saw the man sitting on the bed and the bed was on fire. He can’t walk so I had to drag him from the bed and onto his wheelchair and get him outside, and when I got him outside I had to pat his legs and get the fire out. Then I asked him if anyone else was in the house and he said his partner was.

“The smoke was worse when I went in a second time, and I couldn’t see her. Then I heard her say ‘help me’, but I couldn’t get back in because she was on fire, the bed was on fire, the whole room was just black.

“I asked her to crawl over to me and she crawled a bit and all I had to do then was reach in and grab her by the arm and pull her out into the back yard and roll her on the grass and get the fire off her.

All I had to do then was reach in and grab her by the arm and pull her out into the back yard and roll her on the grass and get the fire off her.

Derry man, Sean McLaughlin

“Her legs were on fire and there was stuff stuck to her. She was in bad shape.”

Sean dismisses any notion he’s a hero.

“No way, not at all. I just did what anyone else would’ve done. Don’t get me wrong, I was scared going back in the second time,” said Sean. “I just wanted to get them out and you don’t have time to think. Easily, within the space of five or six minutes the whole house was up in flames. I feel happy me and partner did what we did. There wasn’t a soul about and it was my partner, Patrice McCourt who rang the emergency services,” said Sean, who suffered slight burns to his hand during the drama.

The couple Sean saved from the fire were taken to Altnagelvin before being transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

Sean said he went to see the couple last night at Altnagelvin, but only saw the man he rescued.

“I got to see him and he’s shaken up,” said Sean. “My own hair was singed and I burnt my hand a bit, but nothing worth talking about. I feel grand now although my emotions were a bit up and down last night. I’m just glad they got out and I hope the woman pulls through because she was in worse shape.”

Another man, who prefers not to be named, told the ‘Journal’ he’d received a call about the fire asking if he could help. He told the ‘Journal’ he did what anyone would do.

“I checked the front door handle to see if it was hot and it was kind of warm, but not roasting. I know the people that live there. I went in and the place was thick was smoke.

“I went into the living room and there was a fella standing there in the middle of the room. I grabbed him and pulled him out. I went back in, but I couldn’t see anyone,” said the man.

When asked if he feels he’s a hero, the man said: “No way. I did what anyone would have done. I’m a bit choked up today, but I’m just glad they’re all okay and they survived. That’s the main thing.”

NIFRS Station Commander Andrew Russell said when crews from Crescent Link and Northland arrived at the scene, the house was well alight. He said they checked for persons believed to be inside the burning property but they had been rescued and taken to safety.

Mr. Russell said had it not been for the “swift actions” of those who rescued the occupants “we could have been waking up to a castastrophe”.

Fire crews were on scene at Altcar Park for an hour and a half.

Commander Russell urged householders to check their smoke alarms regularly to ensure they’re working properly.

A PSNI spokesperson said the fire appears to have been accidental.