Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Villagers mourn 'lovely man' who died in house fire

Members of the Fire Service at the house in Bessbrook where Mr McConnell lost his life

Neighbours of the man who died while bravely attempting to put out a house fire on Boxing Day have spoken of how well- liked he was.

Edgar McConnell (54) died of smoke inhalation from a blaze that had broken out in a bedroom of his College Square West house in Bessbrook, Co Armagh.

It is believed ornamental candles, which were burning in the room, started the blaze shortly before 9.30pm.

Coats hanging at the back of the door caught fire, filling the mid-terrace home with smoke.

Mr McConnell's 92-year-old mother, who was in the house at the time, managed to escape the fire and alerted her other son Henry, who lives nearby.

He then called Mr McConnell, who was out walking his dog.

When Mr McConnell returned, he found smoke billowing from the upper floor and went in to try to put out the flames, but was overcome with smoke.

Firefighters called to the scene searched the house and rescued Mr McConnell, but he died at the scene despite treatment by paramedics.

There was shock and sadness in Bessbrook yesterday, where many people knew the family.

Mr McConnell lost his sister to cancer a few years ago. His brother Hugh, a police officer, was murdered by the IRA in 1978.

Neighbour Jean Lemmon, who has lived in the area for almost 30 years, described Mr McConnell as a "quiet, pleasant boy" who liked to have a bit of a joke.

"You would be walking along the footpath and he would come up and say, 'look at you taking up all the footpath', stuff like that. He was always having a joke and he was always looking out for you.

"I used to see him every day. He will be missed," she said.

Mrs Lemmon's daughter, Shirley Norris, who also lives in the street, said her sympathies went out to the family.

"It is so, so sad. Edgar got along with everybody. He was such a lovely, quiet fellow.

"I was just speaking to him at the weekend about how he was thinking of going on another cruise. He said he could feel another one of those cruises coming along. I told him to go for it and enjoy himself. It's just so sad."

Another neighbour who did not wished to be named said she was very fond of Mr McConnell, who she had known for almost 40 years: "He was a very nice man."

Local SDLP councillor and friend, John Feehan, said the McConnell family were devastated by the loss: "The McConnells are a well-known family. They have lived here for generations."

Mr Feehan said the entire community would be rallying behind the family in their time of need.

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