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Still traumatised by blaze drama

PUBLISHED: 18:27 29 May 2008 | UPDATED: 11:08 03 July 2010

A FAMILY could be facing a four-month wait before they are able to return to their fire-ravaged Hemsby home.

Lisa and Daniel Whitehead and their three children are staying at Mrs Whitehead's mother's house on the outskirts of the village while Great Yarmouth Borough Council repairs the damage to the Newport Road property.

A FAMILY could be facing a four-month wait before they are able to return to their fire-ravaged Hemsby home.

Lisa and Daniel Whitehead and their three children are staying at Mrs Whitehead's mother's house on the outskirts of the village while Great Yarmouth Borough Council repairs the damage to the Newport Road property.

The gravel driveway is strewn with the charred remains of roof tiles while the front upstairs bedroom window is boarded up. It had been smashed by neighbour Alan Roe who heroically rescued the children from the inferno.

But the greatest toll on the family has been the damage to their possessions, such as Mr and Mrs Whitehead's wedding photo album which was water-damaged as firefighters battled to extinguish the blaze early on Saturday, May 17.

Children Matthew, 5, four year old Hannah and Katie, 10 months, are also in tears by the loss of favourite toys.

Hannah is devastated by the loss of her special present of a Bratz TV given to her by her parents on December 31. It too was water damaged beyond repair.

Mrs Whitehead said: “She wanted it for Christmas, but we couldn't afford it so I bought it soon afterwards and gave it to her on December 31. But the TV has had to go and she is absolutely gutted.”

The youngster's Annabel doll was also destroyed along with Matthew's Playstation 2 games player and television.

A computer storing digital family photos was damaged.

Friends and family have rallied round to donate clothes and other essentials to help the Whiteheads in the aftermath of the blaze.

Mrs Whitehead said the children were coping well although they occasionally woke up crying from nightmares.

Recalling the drama of the night, she said: “I can't get the screams of my kids out of my head. I can't sleep because I keep hearing their screams. I keep waking up and I am checking them constantly.”

The first thing she knew about the fire was when she was woken in her upstairs bedroom by the smoke alarm at 3am and heard her sister Kristy Hoare, 17, who was sleeping on the downstairs sofa, screaming upstairs at her about the blaze, in the loft. The trap door had an orange glow.

When the teenager started climbing the stairs, Mrs Whitehead told her to get out of the house because the ceiling was starting to give way.

She rushed through to the children's bedrooms, gathering them and taking them into her bedroom where the 26-year-old tried to break the window with a bottle of child's medicine, which Katie was taking because she was suffering from chicken pox.

The attempt failed, but builder neighbour Mr Roe used a ladder to reach the window before kicking the glass in.

Mrs Whitehead wrapped her children in blankets and passed them to Mr Roe, 34, who handed them down to neighbours.

Having got her children out of the house, she then needed to escape herself, but her own bedroom window was too dangerous because of the shards of glass, so she went out to the landing to find an alternative escape route.

At this point the trap door to the loft gave way, narrowly missing her and forcing her into Hannah's bedroom at the back of the property where she managed to get onto the roof to be rescued by firefighters.

The family were taken to the James Paget University Hospital where the children were treated for smoke inhalation while their mother received care for a suspected broken arm, leg injuries and a cut to her hand caused by broken glass.

At the time of the fire, Mr Whitehead was working a night shift as a security guard.

“When I first looked out of my bedroom after hearing the fire alarms sounding I could say there was a fire, but the trap door was still The fire was caused by a faulty extension lead which Mrs Whitehead had been using to power a light in the loft.

“All I could think about was getting my kids out of the house. I was not worried about myself- getting the children out was all I cared about.”

Mrs Whitehead added: “I am thankful to everyone who helped out with the rescue, but particularly to Alan because he was the one who kicked the glass in and he was the one who saved my kids.”


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