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Fiance fears for life of Romanian nightclub fire victim

Published 10/11/2015

The scene outside the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, Romania, a week after the fire broke out (AP)
The scene outside the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, Romania, a week after the fire broke out (AP)

The fiance of a British resident left fighting for her life after the Romanian nightclub fire has pleaded with the country's officials to fly her back home - otherwise he said she will die.

Dwain Mensah, 31, from Luton, has been at the bedside of his fiancee Elsa Albu since the accident, which took the lives of 46 people.

Ms Albu, 37, who was born in Romania but is a British resident and taxpayer, has been in an induced coma for the last eleven days after suffering severe burns in the disaster.

At first, the Romanian officials said they would pay for her to fly back to the UK to receive treatment, but Mr Mensah says they are now reconsidering that offer and he is convinced if she does not return home she will die.

She had been celebrating her birthday on October 30 with her brother Adi when a spark ignited foam decor during a heavy-metal concert in the Colectiv club.

"On her birthday she went to the club with her brother Adi and a few friends. Her friends died in the fire and her brother suffered serious burns down to the bone," Mr Mensah said.

"She has some third degree burns and is in an induced coma and is currently fighting for her life for the last ten days. When it set on fire the first half of the club set ablaze which caused a stampede in the second half where my fiancee was.

"It knocked everyone to the ground and then a secondary ceiling fell in and set everyone on fire. They then tried to break through the door which caused a secondary stampede.

"She wasn't on fire at the time but was set on fire by people who were ablaze pushing against her and to the ground.

"Her brother managed to fight people off and get her to the door when there was a blast from within the club which knocked him to the ground.

"He remembers she got out not being on fire and with her hair and face normal. But we think she has run back in the club to try and find her brother when the fire ceased.

"But she was overcome with toxic fumes and is now fighting to try and survive from. They were left on the road for there for about 40 minutes lying there burning because the authorities sent fire engines instead of ambulances."

Mr Mensah, who works as a retail manager, said he has barely eaten or slept since flying out to Bucharest and said the situation was like something out of a horror movie.

He said he has been told all Ms Albu's treatment will be taken care of by the NHS when she returns but that the UK government will not pay for her to be repatriated as it will cost around £50,000.

"Everybody involved was told they would be flown to where they need to go at Romania's expense so when she is well enough we need to see whether they will stick to their agreement that they set in place a week ago," he said.

"All that has been in place for the last week but we heard yesterday the Romanians are reconsidering the funds for evacuation.

"She needs to get back to the UK to live, if she stays here she'll die, but she needs to be well enough to leave and this is what we are concentrating on now.

"We're saying to the Romanians you promised this, we want this, she needs this, live up to what you promised.

"If not I will need to raise the cash to hire a private plane and private medevac unit. Ultimately this is not really an option unless we get some kind of help."

Dr Sarah Pape, lead consultant for burns at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, flew out to Romania to provide assistance after seeing the disaster on the television and helped care for Ms Albu.

She said: "I scanned many patients and assisted the Romanian surgeons with decisions about surgery.

"Despite the magnitude of the disaster the patients had all received high quality intensive care but it was clear that they were going to require many weeks of surgery.

"The beds in the burns wards were full, with patients on other surgical wards, and the excellent doctors were now very tired."

She was also part of the team that arranged for some patients to be flown to the UK to receive treatment here, which is one of the flights that Mr Mensah hopes his fiancee will eventually get on.

"If a burns disaster of this magnitude had occurred in Newcastle, or in any other city in the UK or elsewhere in Europe I believe that we too would have had to organise an international response," she said.

"This has been an eye-opening experience and I believe that we need to consider how we will plan a European response if a similar tragedy of this magnitude were to occur in the future."

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