Neighbours pay tribute to 'lovely' woman who died after being rescued from blaze
Neighbours of an elderly dementia sufferer who died after being pulled from a burning house in Belfast have paid tribute to a friendly woman who loved to socialise.
The widow, aged in her 80s and named locally as Annie Robinson but known as Nan, died of smoke inhalation following the upstairs blaze at her mid-terrace home on Donegall Avenue.
"It's very sad, but everyone did their best to save her," a neighbour said.
Five fire appliances attended the scene after the incident was reported at 5.41pm on Wednesday. The blaze is not thought to be suspicious but an investigation is ongoing.
Ms Robinson's neighbour and friend was alerted by a Polish resident who raised the alarm after seeing thick black smoke billowing out from the upstairs windows.
"He knocked the window and was shouting about smoke and pointing upstairs so I lifted my cup and ran out. It was shocking. I tried to put the door in but couldn't," she said.
Another neighbour who rushed to the property was able to force the door open.
"They tried to get upstairs but the flames and smoke were just too much," the neighbour said.
The resident, who regularly checked on Ms Robinson and bought her groceries, praised firefighters who desperately tried to resuscitate her.
"They had her straight out and worked on her for half-an-hour, but sadly it wasn't enough," she added.
Ms Robinson, who was widowed more than 20 years ago, lived alone and had been confined to her bedroom in recent weeks.
Her devastated neighbour phoned the pensioner's son Jim to tell him that his mother had been injured in a fire.
"But he never made it over, he was redirected to the hospital on his way," she said.
She said Ms Robinson, who lived in the house all her life, was a fantastic neighbour.
"She was just a lovely woman. She was very sociable and knew everyone," she said.
"She used to walk up and down the street a lot and always stood at her front door to have a cigarette, she would chat away to absolutely everyone. But she hasn't been out in about a month."
The shocked friend said that Ms Robinson remained sociable even when she started to lose her memory. "She had dementia in the end. One day she would know your name and the next day she wouldn't, but it never stopped her talking," she said.
Natalie Mercer (32) said the longest dwelling resident on the street was very well respected.
Ms Mercer, whose parents used to own a grocery store in the area, had fond memories of her from childhood.
"She used to always come into my parents' shop with her husband, but he passed away about 20 years ago," she explained.
"She was on her own for a long time."
Meanwhile, five people were treated for smoke inhalation following a house fire in Co Armagh.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service received a report of a blaze at 4.37am at a semi-detached property in Aughan Park in Poyntzpass. It said the three children and two adults were outside the house as firefighters arrived and were taken to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry by ambulance.
The Fire Service added: "Firefighters dealt with an intense fire which gutted the house.
"The cause of the fire remains under investigation with early indications suggesting it was accidental."