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Baby and mother rescued from Belfast inferno fight for life as father shows signs of improvement

By Sara Neill

Published 06/04/2015

A forensics officer inside the house in Jamaica Court
A forensics officer inside the house in Jamaica Court
The outside of the house
Neighbour Paul Savage

A baby girl dramatically rescued from a house fire in north Belfast was last night still fighting for her life.

Five-month-old Holly and her parents were saved when flames gripped their Jamaica Court home just before midnight on Thursday.

Neighbours tried to rescue the young family, but were driven back by the smoke which filled the house and billowed out onto the Ardoyne street. Fire crews stepped in and they were taken from the house to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

The Belfast Trust said Holly and her mother, Christina Duffy, remain critically ill in the intensive care unit, while the baby's dad, Colm Largey, has shown some signs of improvement.

He has been moved to the high dependency unit where he is described as seriously ill.

Local priest Father Gary Donegan has praised the people of Ardoyne for coming together in their rescue attempts.

"I suppose the positive side of this has been the tremendous actions of the local community in first of all alerting the emergency services but then trying valiantly to actually get into the house," he told the BBC.

"Even the firemen were saying they had never experienced help like it; they were literally throwing the hoses of the appliances in order to assist and help.

"So it was a wonderful community effort to try and save this family.".

Neighbour Paul Savage held Christina's hand as rescue crews worked with her before she was taken to the hospital.

He believes if the neighbours had not helped, it could have been much worse.

Mr Savage smelt the fumes from his house, and recounted the chilling moment he realised a young family was trapped inside the semi-detached property.

He said: "You could see the heatwave coming from it. We didn't know if there was anyone in the house or where the flames were coming from.

"But when we shouted 'who's in? Who's in?' we heard a scream coming from up the stairs.

"We knew then we had to get in and help whoever was in the house. There was no hesitation, we just went straight for the door."

One neighbour smashed the front window, bringing a shock of oxygen to the scene, and the backdraft created a ball of flame.

"The heat was unbearable, never mind the smoke," Mr Savage said. "It was like a furnace.

"We got about three steps up the stairs, and you were put back out again, you just couldn't see in front of you."

Just in time, the fire crews arrived, battled to get upstairs, and brought out Christina, Colm, and their young daughter.

Mr Savage added: "When they brought out the baby, wrapped in a blanket and brought her straight to the ambulance, the women on the street all feared the worst."

Mr Savage, who has lived in Jamaica Court all his life, said the community does pull together.

He explained: "If anything happens and you think you can help, there's no point sitting about, you get out and help.

"Anyone would've done the same thing."

The injured couple had only recently moved into the Ardoyne home, but Mr Savage said he has known Colm for years.

He said: "Your heart goes out to them. I've known him all his days, and he's a real grafter.

"They're so young, and they're trying to make a go of it."

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