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Mum trapped with child in flat fire feared for her life

By Sara Neill

Published 29/04/2015

Niki Nixon with her five-year-old daughter Syah (left), who escaped serious injury after a fire broke out at the Parkland flats in the Knocknagoney area of east Belfast early yesterday
Niki Nixon with her five-year-old daughter Syah (left), who escaped serious injury after a fire broke out at the Parkland flats in the Knocknagoney area of east Belfast early yesterday
The scene of the blaze at the Parkland flats in the Knocknagoney area of east Belfast

A Belfast woman trapped in a fire at her flat thought she and her five-year-old daughter were going to die in the blaze.

Niki Nixon suffered burns to her hands as she tried to smash through a window in her Parklands flat in the early hours of yesterday.

Niki and her family found themselves trapped inside their home as the fire swept through the corridor outside, blocking their only escape route.

The east Belfast resident said she could hear her daughter Syah calling for help and said the horror scene was like something she'd only seen on television.

The fire broke out at the flats in the Knocknagoney area of the city at around 3am.

Several residents had evacuated when the blaze was discovered, with some found outside on their balconies waiting for help.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said it had been a "well-developed fire" in the stairwell and store room on the second floor of the complex when they arrived shortly before 2.45am.

Niki said she thought she was dreaming when she awoke to see her flat, understood to be on the fourth floor, alight.

"I walked out and I couldn't see anything," she said.

"I saw the flames and I just freaked. I put my hands up to the glass on the window and it stuck. I didn't feel the pain at first and then I pushed and broke the window.

"I could hear my wee girl calling for me and I was just thinking, we're going to die."

She said fear gripped her further when she realised they couldn't find refuge in the hall as it was engulfed in flames.

"Then I thought, we can't even get down the stairs and I thought this kind of thing only happens on TV."

Niki was also treated for the effects of smoke inhalation.

"There was something physical going down my throat," she said, of the smoke from the inferno.

Visiting the scene later yesterday, she found her flat blackened and gutted but said her family was "extremely lucky" to get out alive.

A number of other residents banged on neighbours' doors to alert them to the blaze.

Newlywed Karina Padrilla, who tied the knot in Colombia four months ago, feared she was going to lose treasured memories of her big day, including her wedding album.

The Colombian native told how she and her husband were woken from their sleep by a fire alarm.

"Suddenly I heard voices and people running," she said.

"My husband went downstairs and when he smelled the smoke, he came back upstairs and told me we needed to get out now.

"We took our passports and important documents and ran," she added.

"I didn't think about the TV or anything else, just of our wedding album, and our memories. We brought that back from Colombia. I thought if they can't control the fire our memories and our flat would be destroyed.

Karina and her husband joined others fleeing the building, banging on doors as they escaped to ensure all the residents knew they needed to get out.

Fourteen residents had made it outside before fire crews arrived.

Assistant Group Commander Andy Woods from the fire service said it was "a fairly intense scene".

"The fire door at the top of the stairs had been left open, and that allowed all the thick, black acrid smoke into the corridor outside the flats," he said.

Two men also suffered from the effects of smoke inhalation, while others were treated in their flats by paramedics.

Belfast Telegraph

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