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Cairns family 'lucky to escape with lives' in arson attack on Derry disabled man's car

By Donna Deeny

Published 06/04/2016

Thomas Cairns
Thomas Cairns

Arsonists who torched a car belonging to a disabled man could have caused a fatal gas explosion and claimed the lives of his family if the blaze had not been noticed.

The mobility car belonging to Thomas Cairns (34), who suffers from cerebral palsy, was parked outside his front door, near to a gas supply box.

Mr Cairns said that while he was disgusted that his car, which is a lifeline for him, has been destroyed, the consequences of what could have happened do not bear thinking about.

Speaking from his home in Galliagh Park in Londonderry, he added: "I cannot explain how much I depend on my car, but a car can be replaced.

"If my sister hadn't noticed the flames and called the fire service, the fire could have spread to my gas supply and the whole house could have exploded.

"My sister is in the process of moving house so she is staying with me for a while along with her two young children.

"It really upsets me to think that they all could have been killed in their beds because a car is just a car, but a life is something that cannot be replaced.

"My sister noticed the fire. She was in the living room watching TV and I had gone to bed .

"The first I realised something was wrong was when she called out, 'Your car is on fire, your car is on fire'.

"The car has been completely destroyed, which means I am like a prisoner in my own house now because without my car I just can't get out and about.

"I do voluntary work as an advocate for disabled people which I can't do for now because the police have taken my car for forensic examination, but it has been written off by the fire service anyway.

"I had it just 13 months and it was fitted out specifically for me. It disgusts me that anyone would do this.

"I know it is a cliche, but the people here are brilliant. I have lived here for eight years and I could leave my door open, go to the shop and nothing bad would happen .

"Unfortunately, there are boys going about who don't know me, don't care about me, or anyone else for that matter, and are only interested in causing damage wherever they go."

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