Neighbours managed to pull out the 31-year-old mother and her eight-year-old daughter Bayley before the fire brigade arrived.
The devastating story that saw an Australian family lose three young children – an 11-year-old boy and five-year-old twin girls – in a house fire has seen an outpouring of support with more than A$135,0000 raised in a GoFundMe campaign.
Kara Atkins, 31, and her eight-year-old daughter Bayley were the only family members to escape the blaze in Singleton, in NSW’s Upper Hunter region at about 3.30am on Wednesday, which claimed the life of twins Matylda and Scarlett, and brother Blake.
Neighbours Deanna Stolzenburg and Matisse Maskey were able to pull Kara and Bayley out through the back window of the blazing home.
“I woke up to the house exploding and glass exploding and the house engulfed in flames and then me and Matisse ran out the back to try and save them all,” she said, The Daily Telegraph reported.
“Then my partner Braden kicked down the door.
“(Kara) was at the back window screaming for help and we went out the back and pulled them out.
“The window was open and Kara was passing her daughter out, she said ‘Take her take her, I’ve got to get the rest’.
“We got the mother and daughter out and then the fire brigade and the police came.
“I feel helpless because I didn’t get them all out, there were three lives lost.”
Firefighters rescued five-year-old twins Matylda and Scarlett through side windows and both were taken to Singleton Hospital, but they died as a result of their injuries. Blake’s body was found later inside the remains of the property.
Atkins, who suffered burns, and Bayley, suffering from smoke inhalation, remained at John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle, NSW, in stable condition.
Kara Atkins, 31, had to be pulled from the house as she searched for her children. Photo: Facebook
Family friend Caitlyn Stemmer set up a GoFundMe page to provide Kara, Chris and Bayley financial support and has set a new A$150,000 target. More than 3,000 people have donated to the GoFundMe campaign already.
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “They are a very loving family, caring and Kara has always been a good mum who would help out anyone who needed it. The kids’ father Chris works away on the rail. It is just heartbreaking.
“The family will need to rebuild their lives and home, any help will be forever appreciated.”
The house was owned by the NSW Government and managed by Compass Housing, a not-for-profit community housing provider. Earlier this month, it took over the management of more than 1,000 social housing properties in the Hunter, including 665 in Cessnock, 384 in Singleton and 27 in Dungog.
Group Managing Director Greg Budworth said Compass Housing was devastated by the fire and would support the family and community.
“In addition to arranging alternative accommodation for the family, Compass has conducted welfare checks on neighbours and is arranging counselling for any members of the community impacted by this tragedy. This service will be available from the Singleton Neighbourhood Centre,” he said.
“We are also working with the authorities and the property owner, the NSW Land and Housing Corporation, as they investigate the cause of the fire.”
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