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Brooke Reid McMaster's death in house fire leaves Ballymena college teachers and pupils heartbroken

A Ballymena school principal has shared its heartache after a pupil lost her life in a devastating house fire.

Brooke Reid McMaster's family has been left devastated after the 12-year-old schoolgirl death.

Emergency crews were called to the blaze at Staffa Drive in the Ballykeel area just before 6pm on Wednesday.

She was a pupil at Dunclug College. Principal Ruth Wilson offered the school's "heartfelt sympathies" to the family.

"The staff and pupils of Dunclug College record deep sorrow on the tragic death of their beloved pupil, Brooke Reid, in Year 9, and send support and prayers to her grieving parents and family circle. 'Suffer the little ones to come unto me'."

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service confirmed that one other person had been taken to Antrim Area Hospital for treatment.

The tragedy came hours after police launched a murder investigation in the area after the body of 33-year-old Donald Fraser-Rennie was discovered in a flat nearby on Crebilly Road.

Independent councillor Rodney Quigley, who knows Brooke's family, said the local community had been left numb with shock.

"From what I'm aware, the fire started in the house in the young girl's bedroom and people tried to get in through the door but were beaten back by the smoke and the fumes," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I know the family very well. They're very well respected.

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Tragedy: Emergency services at the scene of the fatal fire in the Ballykeel estate in Ballymena

Tragedy: Emergency services at the scene of the fatal fire in the Ballykeel estate in Ballymena

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Tragedy: Emergency services at the scene of the fatal fire in the Ballykeel estate in Ballymena

"I actually spoke to them and there's total devastation.

"In fact, there's a feeling of devastation in the whole area, numbness and sadness after another tragedy."

As the news emerged on Wednesday evening, friends of the family began to share messages of support on social media.

DUP councillor Audrey Wales said: "This community really must be in such shock. (These are) two disastrous pieces of news within 24 hours.

"My heart, sympathies and prayers go out to the child involved. I hope that the community can be assured that they will get all the help that they need from the local council."

TUV councillor Matthew Armstrong also passed on his sympathies to the family.

"What has happened is unimaginable and heartbreaking. My thoughts and prayers go out to them. As a father myself, it's just unspeakable," he said.

"Sometimes there's just very few words to describe something as horrific as that.

"It's an area and a community that has suffered untold amounts of tragedy and loss over the last three months.

"But they're a strong community and a resilient community and I'm sure they will rally around and support the family at an absolutely heart wrenching time. It's been a dark day not just for Ballykeel, but for all of Ballymena."

Belfast Telegraph