Police treating Coleraine arson attack on family as mass murder attempt
A pregnant mother has told how her eight-year-old son feared he was going to be burnt alive in an arson attack on their home.
Passers-by and the Fire Service helped rescue the family from their burning Coleraine property following the attack, which police are treating as attempted murder.
Sarah Gibson, her partner Marty Fischer, and two children - aged eight and four - were in the house at the time.
Ms Gibson said her son believed he was going to perish in the inferno.
"I had to throw the youngest boy out to one of the neighbours, for them to catch him," she told UTV.
"And then I heard my eldest boy screaming 'Mummy, I'm dying'.
"I opened the door to go and get him but I couldn't. The smoke was so strong and (the backdraught) flung me back on to my bed."
She continued: "And I kept saying 'son you're going to be all right, we're going to get you out'. He said 'Mummy, I love you, I'm going to die'.
"I had to jump out the window and just hope for the best that they would get him out and they did, the fire brigade got him."
The family were all taken to hospital and Ms Gibson's partner and oldest child were treated for smoke inhalation.
"Reality has hit in. I came back to the house and seen the damage and I'm thinking there could have been a funeral planned," she added.
"Somebody has done this and I don't know why. Last night I knew it was bad. Today it has just hit. It has shook me up. I can't get over it. I can't get my head round why."
The PSNI said the blaze at Rinvarna Court in the Millburn Road area of the town on Sunday night was not being treated as sectarian or as a hate crime.
Sources in the area said a prior dispute was one line of inquiry by police.
PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Catherine Magee said the blaze could have had tragic consequences.
"This is a very serious incident and we are extremely lucky we are not investigating the death of a young family," said the senior officer.
The fire started around 9.45pm on Sunday.
The front door of the house was damaged and was boarded up yesterday and there was scorch damage to the front of the house. There was also severe damage to the hallway. A household ladder was propped up outside the property, suggesting it may have been used in the rescue.
A neighbour said: "This is a very respectable area and we are all shocked that something like this has happened." The Fire Service said two appliances from Coleraine and one from Portstewart attended at the mid-terrace two-storey property.
DUP mayor of Coleraine George Duddy said people were shocked by the incident. He added: "Had it not been for the quick response of the emergency services we could have been looking at fatalities this morning. It's a very, very quiet area of Coleraine and I would utterly condemn this."