Gardaí suspect fatal Co Westmeath car fire started maliciously

Hundreds gather in Multyfarnham for vigil in memory of Michael Egar (2) and Thelma Egar (5)

A vigil took place in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath on Sunday night to remember Thelma and Michael Egar who died following a car fire last Friday. Their mother, Lynn, is being treated in hospital. Photograph: Barry Cronin

Gardaí investigating a car fire in Co Westmeath, which left two children dead and their mother seriously injured, strongly suspect that the blaze was started maliciously.

Lynn Egar (40s) and her son Michael (2) and daughter Thelma (5) were in their car on a rural road near Multyfarnham last Friday afternoon when the vehicle was engulfed by flames.

The Garda inquiry being carried out by detectives based at Mullingar Garda station is criminal in nature and arson is the main line of inquiry.

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Hundreds of people gathered in Multyfarnham on Sunday evening for a vigil in memory of the children.

Thelma Egar (5) attended St Cremin's National School in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath. Photograph: Facebook

Participants walked in silence in the rain from the Children of Lir preschool, which Michael had attended, to St Cremin’s National School where Thelma was a pupil. Many children were present to mourn the loss of their classmate, leaving candles and flowers at the entrance alongside a photograph of the siblings.

The family’s home in Rathowen, Co Westmeath, some 10km from Multyfarnham, was sealed off as part of the inquiry and detectives were trying to piece together the movements of Ms Egar and her two children before the incident.

The emergency services were alerted at about 4pm on Friday when another road user came upon the burning car on a minor road at Lacken, between Coole and Multyfarnham. The vehicle was on fire in the centre of the road and the driver who was first on the scene tried to rescue those inside before the emergency services arrived.

Ms Egar was airlifted from the scene and has been undergoing treatment at a Dublin hospital. While her injuries are described as serious, she is in a stable condition and is expected to survive. It is unclear when she might be alert enough to be spoken to by gardaí, who are hopeful she can provide information about how the car came to be engulfed by flames.

Michael was taken from the vehicle and brought by ambulance to the Midlands Regional Hospital, Mullingar, where he was pronounced dead on Friday evening. Thelma’s remains were found in the car and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Michael Egar (2) was brought by ambulance to the Midlands Regional Hospital, Mullingar, where he was pronounced dead on Friday evening. Photograph: Facebook

The scene where the car went on fire has undergone examination by the Garda Technical Bureau, members of which were also examining the family home this weekend. The vehicle was also taken from the scene to be examined. State Pathologist Sally Ann Collis carried out postmortems on the deceased children on Saturday.

A short prayer service took place following Sunday evening’s vigil, with a local priest telling the crowd: “We pray for Michael and Thelma and their extended family. May they find comfort and strength in the loving support of the community through this difficult time.”

Neighbours and friends said they were still coming to terms with what had transpired over the past few days.

Fianna Fáil TD for Longford-Westmeath Robert Troy said his thoughts were with all those who had been affected by tragedy.

“It’s been a very poignant night seeing hundreds of people turn up here to remember two little angels. We’re all thinking of them,” he said.

“People are still trying to piece it all together, it’s a horrific tragedy for all in Multyfarnham. My thoughts are with the family, the schoolteachers, pupils, first responders and everyone else who has been affected by this in the last few days.”

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times