Belfast Telegraph

Community rallies round family of boy badly burned in Boxing Day house fire

By Rachel Martin

A young boy from Co Londonderry who survived a terrifying house fire on Boxing Day has received a skin graft.

Nine-year-old Rhys Mullan was left with third-degree burns after the blaze which gutted his father's home in Magilligan.

His father Stephen Mullan, his partner Miriam Ramsey and children Ben (12), Leah (10) and Rhys escaped through the roof of their house on the Seacoast Road.

Family friends Stephen McLean and his wife Louise set up a Facebook page titled "Help Rhys Recover" which includes a number of updates each day, including that Rhys has undergone a number of surgeries in recent days and faces a long and painful road to recovery.

This is part of an effort by neighbours, family and friends to rally around the family.

Mr McLean, a local businessman and amateur photographer, is also running an auction with prints he has made of UK and Irish photographers' work.

His wife Louise said the auction had seen an 'overwhelming response'.

"Already he has more than 40 photos ready for the auction which we're hoping to hold this month," she said.

"Stephen thought it was something different from the other fundraisers and is very grateful to all the photographers who have offered their work."

She added: "It's a very Northern Ireland thing, but it's the kind of place where families have known each other for two or three generations and I think that especially when there's a child involved people just want to help.

"The family have been through an ordeal and will just want things to get back to normal as soon as possible."

Family friend Kelly Canning and her cousin Roisin Anderson from Limavady are organising a raffle. Kelly said she hoped their efforts would help the family replace some of their belongings.

She said: "Local businesses in Magilligan have been very generous and a lot of other people have got involved in helping with it too.

"It's a very close-knit community, everybody rallied round when they heard what happened - every door we have knocked on people have been very supportive.

"The family were very lucky they weren't killed and have lost everything - even Stephen's clothes have been destroyed and the children have lost all the things they were given for Christmas."

Players at St Aidan's GAC are also holding a car wash this Saturday to raise money for the family and someone in the village has also anonymously replaced Rhys' burned iPad.

Speaking on behalf of Rhys' mother, Annette Friel, a family friend said she would like to thank everyone who has supported the family in any way.

She said: "Annette has stayed at the Royal Victoria Hospital with Rhys since he was admitted, only coming home twice to see her other children. She is more than grateful for everything that has been done for the family. No words can describe just how much they appreciate the support from people, some who don't even know them personally."

The fire broke out just after 4pm on Boxing Day.

Mr Mullan said a spark from the hearth fire caught his youngest son Rhys' clothing.

He has spoken of how he rushed to put it out immediately, but the fire spread too quickly to control, adding that "within minutes the whole house was completely covered in smoke".

The Co Londonderry man paid tribute to his son Ben for his quick thinking after he suggested his family seek safety on the roof and helped put out the flames on his younger brother.

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