Police investigating if fourth victim died in suspected arson attack in Fermanagh
Man who attempted to rescue occupants says he was beaten back by smoke and flames
The victims have been named locally as Crystal Gossett, her 16-year-old son Edward and daughter Diane (19), while a fourth victim, Diane’s infant daughter, is also feared to have died. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Police in Fermanagh are investigating “reports of a fourth victim” of the fire that destroyed a house just outside Derrylin on Tuesday.
A 27-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder over the fire and PSNI officers were working “intensively” to determine if a fourth person died in the blaze.
The suspect was detained at the scene of the suspected arson attack and taken to the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen for treatment, where he remains under police guard.
They have been named locally as Crystal Gossett, her 16-year-old son Edward and daughter Diane (19), while a fourth victim, Diane’s infant daughter, is also feared to have died.
PSNI Detective Inspector Peter McKenna said on Wednesday that the fire was “ferocious in nature” and that the crime scene was “very complex”.
“However at this time I have specialist search and rescue teams working hard to try and identify those who have died,” he added.
The officer said he was aware of local information and speculation of a fourth victim. “All I can say is that we are working intensively to establish how many victims were actually involved in this appalling incident,” said Det Insp McKenna.
He said that it would take a number of days to complete that investigation due to the structural damage caused by the fire which was further compounded by predicted severe weather.
“The specialist officers will ensure that the bodies of all persons identified are recovered in a dignified manner. Post-mortem examinations will then follow and this will assist me in confirming the identity of the victims,” added Det Insp McKenna.
Local man Tom Fee who owns the rented property had attempted to rescue the occupants by breaking down doors and windows with a sledgehammer but was beaten back by the smoke and flames.
“I was joined by a couple of neighbours. We broke down two windows and a door but there was too much smoke and the slates were falling,” he said. “It was too dangerous and beat us out. I’m still in a state of shock and can’t imagine what these people went through in this intense fire - it was ferocious,” Mr Fee said.
Martin Hanna who works in McDade’s Centra in the village said local people were stunned by the loss of life. He described the family as people who were always pleasant but who “very much kept to themselves”.
“It’s terrible to think that they have all been wiped out,” he said.
The local parish priest, Rev Gerard Alwill said that “even though not many people would know the family, a sudden death in a community as close knit as this one is at any time is very tragic”.
“Considering that there seems to be three if not more who died in this incident, it really is a huge shock to the community,” he added.
“Since there is no family left behind in the area local people have no way to offer their condolences and support. We prayed for the victims and those who are mourning them at Mass this morning and remembered them in our prayers.”
Church of Ireland minister Rev Alastair Donaldson said people were in shock. “There doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of information about the family themselves or what exactly happened. Derrylin is such a very small and tight-knit community,” he said.
“Sadly as a Christian leader it makes me think about how many people in our communities we don’t actually know and ask do we even know our neighbours anymore. From what we have been told so far how can a family be living in a small area for 12 to 18 months and nobody know them,” he added.