‘I’m so gutted we couldn’t save you all’: Ambulance worker who desperately tried to rescue four children killed in horror house fire ‘triggered by faulty boiler’ pens heartbreaking note
- Parents Natalie Unitt, 24, and Chris Moulton, 28, escaped with their youngest
- Four children aged three to eight, Riley, Keegan, Tilly and Olly, all died in the fire
- Neighbours have suggested family’s boiler may have blown up, triggering blaze
An inferno which ripped through a house and killed four siblings may have been triggered by a faulty boiler, it emerged today.
Natalie Unitt, 24, and her partner Chris Moulton, 28, leapt from the firstfloor window with their youngest child, Jack, two, in his father’s arms. He was the only child to survive.
The couple’s sons, Olly, three, and Keegan, six, died alongside their daughter Tilly, four, and Miss Unitt’s eldest child, Riley, eight, who was born after an earlier relationship.
Floral tributes have been left at the scene of the tragedy, including a letter from grief-stricken ambulance dispatcher Lamara Shelley who said she was ‘gutted she couldn’t save them all.’
Left to right: Keegan Unitt, six, Tilly Rose Unit, four, Olly Unitt, three, and Riley Holt, died in the blaze in Stafford in the early hours of yesterday morning
A note left by grief-stricken ambulance dispatcher Lamara Shelley who said she was ‘gutted’ she couldn’t save them all
A sea of flowers of a teddy bears have been left at the scene by neighbours, family and friends
Crowdfunding page set up to support family
A JustGiving page set up to raise £5,000 for the family had reached £4,000 within hours.
On Wednesday it had raised more than £18,000, towards a £25,000 total.
The page, set up by a parent at the school attended by the family’s children, said: ‘All donations received will go directly to the parents to help them rebuild their lives. Thanks so much for your support.’
Michael Dixey, 62, who lives in the area, said: ‘I have heard it was probably the boiler.
‘They were always friendly. They hadn’t got a lot in life. Everyone in the estate knew them.
‘They never going to replace them.
‘She had five babies and was only 24.
‘It’s too close to home – how do you get over something like this?
‘I wouldn’t want to come back.’
A relative of Miss Unitt yesterday said the tragedy would ‘break’ the devoted mother. Sarah Pearce, 26, said: ‘Natalie was born to be a mother. It’s all she wanted to do.
‘She loved being a mother – that’s why she had so many. She told me her kids were her world.Natalie will be distraught now. This will break her.’
A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: ‘As the fire raged, I saw Natalie and Chris wrapped in blankets outside. She was screaming, ‘My babies! My babies!”
Another neighbour said she heard Miss Unitt shouting for her ‘babies’ at 2.30am yesterday.
She added: ‘I heard a massive bang. I went to look outside and saw a massive fire come out of the upstairs window of the house.
‘The man had a baby in his arms and the mum was wrapped in a duvet standing in the street.
‘The fire brigade hadn’t arrived at that point. They [the couple] seemed pretty calm. They were just looking at the house – I think they were in shock.’
Ambulance dispatcher Lamara Shelley said she was ‘gutted’ she could not save the youngsters
The children’s mother is Natalie Unitt. She and her partner Chris Moulton (right) are being treated in hospital with one child
Ms Unitt’s three eldest children, eight-year-old Riley (left), six-year-old Keegan (centre) and four-year-old Tilly (right) tragically died in the overnight blaze
Police say four children died in the blaze and two adults, believed to be the children’s parents, were rushed to hospital along with another child
Grieving teachers say children had ‘infectious giggles’ and loved stories and mischief
The teachers of the four children killed today say the schools have been left heartbroken by the tragic events of this morning.
Nicola Glover, head teacher at Castlechurch Primary School, said: ‘Our entire school community is absolutely devastated by this news.
‘Riley was a very confident, excitable member of school who came every day full of enthusiasm.
‘He was a caring friend who hated to see anyone hurt or upset and would do his best to help or cheer them up.
‘Riley had a great sense of humour and an infectious giggle. He was a very bright and articulate boy who showed interest in all areas and was always keen to ask lots of questions.’
Mrs Glover added: ‘Tilly was a happy little girl who loved coming to nursery.
‘She was a friendly and caring child who loved to read stories, dress up and paint. Tilly was always proud of her achievements.
‘Olly was a happy, loving boy who loved cuddles. He was always happy to come to nursery and loved to be in the role play area with the dolls.’
Kim Ellis, head teacher at Marshlands Special School where Keegan was a pupil, said: ‘Keegan was lively, full of fun and mischief with a really endearing smile.
‘He loved school and everyone who worked with him loved him. We were all proud of him and the progress that he had made. It is very hard to accept what has happened. ‘
Both schools said they are offering support to help staff and fellow pupils following the blaze.
The woman said the victims had been ‘really happy little things’ and ‘so friendly’, adding: ‘It’s just such a tragedy.
‘I can’t bear to think what the family are going through.’
Neighbour Wendy Pickering said: ‘I heard the kids screaming – it was horrible. We thought it was gas.
‘We saw the windows of the parents’ room. The flames were going up the roof.’
According to a post on Facebook from Miss Unitt, she became engaged to Mr Moulton in 2013.
Other Facebook messages suggest she had been through an acrimonious break-up with Riley’s father, Michael Holt, 28, from Wolverhampton.
A relative of Mr Holt, who arrived at the scene to lay flowers yesterday, described him as ‘numb’ with grief.
Nicola Glover, headteacher of Castlechurch Primary School where three of the four dead children went, said staff and pupils were ‘absolutely devastated’.
She described Riley as a ‘very confident, excitable member of school who came every day full of enthusiasm’, while Tilly, who attended the nursery, was a ‘happy little girl’ who ‘loved to read stories, dress up and paint’.
Mrs Glover said Olly, who was also at nursery, was a ‘happy, loving boy who loved cuddles’.
Kim Ellis, head at Marshlands School, where Keegan was a pupil, said he was ‘full of fun and mischief with a really endearing smile’.
Miss Unitt and Mr Moulton were in hospital yesterday being treated for smoke inhalation and burns.
Miss Unitt’s mother, Michelle, lives a few streets away. A man at the home yesterday said the family were too upset to comment.
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Fire crews remain at the scene of the house fire as they work to establish the cause. Neighbours believe it was a gas leak
A spokesman for Stafford Police said today: Investigations are continuing this morning into a fatal house fire in Stafford, in which four children tragically lost their lives.
‘Police together with colleagues from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service remain at the scene while forensic enquiries are ongoing into the cause of the blaze. Investigations are likely to last the next few days.
‘The children have yet to be formally identified, but are believed to be Riley Holt, aged eight, Keegan Unitt, aged six, Tilly Rose Unitt, aged four, and Olly Unitt, aged three.
‘Post mortems will take place later this week. Emergency services were called to the fire in Highfields, Stafford in the early hours of Tuesday morning (5 February).
‘A woman aged 24, and a man aged 28, escaped with a two-year-old boy. The man is being treated for burns and the woman for smoke inhalation. All three are remain in hospital for treatment but their injuries are not life-threatening.’
Police officer and firefighters watch as a private ambulance removes the corpses of the children who died in the horrific fire
Parents Natalie Unitt and Chris Moulton sit behind children killed in fire (left to right) Tilly, who was four, Keegan, who was six, Olly, who was three, and Riley, who was eight. The picture is from 2016 before they had baby Jack, now two, who survived the blaze with his parents
Firefighters and police officers form a guard of honour for the children as they are removed from the scene in Stafford by private ambulances this afternoon
Fire chiefs said three appliances were sent to the scene. Deputy chief fire officer Rob Barber added: ‘One male, one female and a baby had escaped from the property prior to our arrival via a first-floor window. Our firefighters were faced with very difficult conditions. I cannot comment further on the likely cause.’
Stafford and Rural Homes housing association, which owns the property, would not comment on whether the boiler was a focus of the investigation.
Among the floral tributes left at the scene was one which read: ‘To my lovely grandkids – I will always miss you. Love you always.’
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