- The four were named as Reece Smith, 19, four-year-old twins Holly and Ella Smith and Jordan Smith, two
- Mother Michelle Smith was celebrating her 36th birthday with friends at home when blaze broke out
- Eldest son Reece ran into house in doomed attempt to save siblings
- Grandfather Keith Smith, 56, ‘deeply shocked’ by tragedy
Last updated at 4:37 AM on 9th January 2012
Posing for the camera with bright
eyes and wide smiles, these are the three children who died in a fire as
their older teenage brother tried desperately to save them.
Despite his brave efforts, he too perished in the tragedy.
The horror unfolded in an attic room at the family home as their mother celebrated her 36th birthday with friends.
Michelle Smith’s four-year-old twin
daughters, Holly and Ella, and two sons, Jordan, two, and Reece, 19,
were all pronounced dead at hospital.
Grief: Michelle Smith visits floral tributes left after four of her nine children died in the blaze
Tragedy: Four-year-old twins Holly and Ella lost their lives in the fire, neighbours said their brother Reece had tried to save them
Chaotic scenes: Reece Smith (left) is believed to have run into the home to save his brother Jordan (right)
Investigation continues: Police confirmed there was a birthday party at the house, which remained sealed off yesterday
Sobbing uncontrollably, Miss Smith returned to her converted bungalow last night accompanied by police officers.
Clutching a picture of her twin girls, all she could say was: ‘I have lost the lights of my life… Where can I turn?’
The full-time mother had invited friends round for a party on Saturday night when the fire apparently started in a loft conversion where the twins were sleeping.
Revellers spilled out on to the pavement in panic, before dialling 999 shortly before 11.30pm.
Yesterday relatives described Reece as a ‘hero’ after it emerged he went back inside the house to try to rescue the three children.
Miss Smith, who has three other daughters and two sons who live elsewhere, had also stayed in the home and had to be led to safety by firemen. She was unharmed.
Police, who have begun an investigation into the tragedy, said they were keeping an ‘open mind’ as to whether there were any suspicious circumstances.
Community in mourning: Tiny Ella, Jordan and Holly are believed to have only lived in the house for three months
Reports suggested the house had smoke alarms, but they were not working.
Miss Smith’s former partner, Colin Ostler, 42, said: ‘Michelle is in shock, she’s devastated, we all are, but it’s not really hit her yet. She’s too upset to talk about it, the enormity of what’s happened just hasn’t sunk in.’
Police and fire crews were called to the converted bungalow, in Freckleton, near Preston, shortly before 11.30pm.
They were confronted with a ‘chaotic’ scene, with many partygoers on the street in a distressed state. Six firemen wearing breathing apparatus went inside the property and brought out the four children. They were taken to the Royal Preston Hospital but declared dead.
Mr Ostler, who was in a relationship with Miss Smith for nine years and had three daughters, Bethany, 11, Jodie, ten, and Chloe, seven, with her, said Reece died trying to save his siblings.
‘Reece died a hero,’ he said. ‘My three girls always stay with their mum on Friday nights and they wanted to stay on Saturday as well.
‘All hell broke loose’: Neighbours said fire crews rushed to the scene where four people, including three children lost their lives
Shocking: The twin’s grandfather said he only heard of the tragedy through radio news broadcasts yesterday morning
‘Thankfully, we said no and I took them home, otherwise who knows what could have happened.’
Mr Ostler, a part-time chef, of Freckleton, added: ‘It is such a sad loss, it’s just horrendous, I can’t get my head around it. Nobody should see their children die.’ Miss Smith’s father, Keith Smith, 56, said his blood ‘turned cold’ when he saw his daughter’s home flash up on the news early yesterday.
‘I rushed down here straight away, all the time wishing it wasn’t going to be true, but when I got here my worst nightmare came true,’ he said. ‘I’m still trying to take it all in. They were smashing kids. The last time I saw them was at Christmas. They had moved into the house about two-and-a-half years ago and seemed very happy there. ‘I’m still in shock. It is devastating news.’
Party: Police confirmed there was a gathering at the home which was attended by at least ten people
Tragic: Despite all four siblings being pulled from the home in Lytham Road, Freckleton, they were pronounced dead on arrival at the Royal Preston Hospital
Fighting back tears, he added: ‘It was Michelle’s birthday – I feel so sorry for her. They are cracking kids and she is a great mother.’
Family friend Carolyn Milburn added: ‘It’s knocked us all for six. They were all lovely, all of them.
‘Lovely kids, well behaved, well brought up, always happy. Michelle is a good mum. She loves her kids.
‘I haven’t spoken to her yet but she and her mother, Christine, are both in a state.’
Detective Superintendent Andy Murphy, of Lancashire Police’s major investigation team, said they would be talking to a number of people who were at the house when the fire broke out.
‘We are keeping an open mind at this stage as to what happened,’ he added.
Devastation: A neighbour said it was a sad day for Freckleton