Hero Northern Ireland boy Ben Mullan helped family escape Boxing Day blaze
A 12-year-old boy has been described as amazing by his father for helping his little brother escape a terrifying Boxing Day fire in their home.
Stephen Mullan, his partner Miriam Ramsey and his children, Ben (12), Leah (10), and Rhys (9) were caught up in the blaze at Seacoast Road, Magilligan.
The fire is believed to have started in the living room around 4pm when a spark caught on an item of Rhys' clothing.
Mr Mullan said 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".
Little Rhys suffered third degree burns. He was initially rushed to the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, before being transferred to the Royal Belfast Hospital For Sick Children where last night his condition was described as stable.
Mr Mullan described the sheer speed of the blaze and paid tribute to Ben for his quick thinking.
"Rhys' arm caught fire and we tried to get it out but when I looked around, I noticed the house was on fire. I said to my oldest son, Ben, 'Get Rhys out and I'll deal with this fire'," Mr Mullan told BBC Radio Foyle.
"But it was too far gone and it just happened in seconds. The chair in the sitting room caught.
"Ben rolled Rhys on the chair and got the fire out on his arm. Miriam got Leah up the stairs into the back bedroom. Ben was very calm. I just saw flames. It was a matter of minutes, the whole house was completely covered in smoke.
"In panic, I kept trying the front door knowing it was locked. Ben said we needed to get upstairs.
"Me and the two boys ran up the stairs, Miriam and Leah were already in the back room. I got the fire escape window opened and the whole lot of us got onto a flat roof at the back. We contacted the emergency services then."
Mr Mullan and the three children were able to clamber off the roof, while firefighters brought his partner to safety.
"Ben was amazing. He kept so calm," Mr Mullan said.
"He stayed with Rhys the whole time... He never panicked, he just went straight, calm head, dealt with the situation brilliantly.
"He was unbelievable."
Tributes have also been paid to the fire service phone operator who was able to reassure the family and advise them of the safest way to escape.
Firefighters spent two hours making the scene safe. Three appliances were used to fight the fire and a supervisory officer also attended the incident.
Edward Carroll, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) group commander, said the fire at the semi-detached house was "well-developed" by the time crews arrived.
All five members of the family were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation before they were taken to hospital by ambulance.
The cause of the fire was found to be accidental.