They never had a chance

HeadLine: THEY NEVER HAD A CHANCE

Daily Record, 05/03/1999, p4
by PETE RICHARDSON and SHAUN MILNE

THE flat where two life-long friends died in a fire had iron bars on
the windows and a fire escape blocked by rubble.
Investigators believe Daniel Heron and James Fraser, both 20, tried
to smash the windows behind the bars in a desperate attempt to escape
from the blazing basement.
Firefighters said they found a disconnected smoke detector, which
they say could have saved their lives.
It has also been revealed that the flat had not been inspected by the
council because it had not been registered by landlord Harry Singh.
Daniel and James lived in the flat with Christopher Lewis, 20, who
was rescued semi- conscious from the fire. They were all former pupils
of Balfron High School in Stirlingshire and had fulfilled a long- time ambition to live together in Glasgow just days ago.
The fire is believed to have started in one of the bedrooms at the
back of the flat but a cause has yet to be established.
Christopher said: “I should have been in a bedroom, that’s where I’ve
been sleeping the past few nights, but the other two boys were both
getting up at the same time so they stayed there and I stayed in the living room.
“I was unconscious when they brought me out. The first I knew I was
taken out of the flat and the firemen asked me how many people were in
the flat.
“They just took me to hospital and I found out later what happened.
“I feel terrible. I’ve known the boys all my life.
“After we moved into the flat lots of people told me the landlord was
dodgy.
“Daniel’s mother was on at him to get a smoke alarm. She was worried
about him and he promised her he’d get one yesterday, but it’s just
been too late.”
The fire started in the Melrose Street flat in Glasgow’s West End,
shortly before 4am yesterday morning.
Residents living above the basement flat called the emergency
services.
Four fire brigade crews went to the scene but despite desperate
rescue attempts the bodies of Daniel and James were found in the
kitchen and a back bedroom.
They were pronounced dead at the scene.
Christopher was taken to the city’s Western Infirmary suffering from
smoke inhalation.
Deputy commander of Strathclyde Fire Brigade Brian Sweeney said there
was evidence the men had made desperate attempts to escape.
He added: “It could very well be the case that they had tried to
smash the glass behind the bars.”
Firefighters have also discovered that a fire escape at the back of
the flat was partially blocked with rubble.
Mr Sweeney said: “One of the reasons we are concerned is that the
back way out of the flat was obstructed.
“There was smoke detector equipment provided in this flat and we
found it disconnected with batteries removed lying on fridges and other
places in the flat.
“The detector never operated and never gave a warning of fire and
this is the primary reason these people died.”
Fire investigation officers are now looking at possibility that a
candle or dropped light started the fatal blaze or that it could have
been caused by an electrical fault.
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said the flat should have been
registered before the flatmates moved in.
He said: “It has not been registered. It is an offence not to
register a flat but it is too early to say whether any action will be
taken against Mr Singh.”
Police said they had questioned the landlord.
Local councillor Hanzala Milek believes the deaths could have been
avoided had the flat been registered.
He said: “The council had no chance to examine it and eradicate any
dangers.
“If they had that opportunity these tragic deaths might have been
avoided because they could have made sure there was a working smoke
alarm.”
Christopher’s mother Quita, 48, who works as a supply teacher in the
Stirling area, said they had been holding a small birthday celebration
for Christopher and James on the night of the tragedy.
She said: “They moved in at the weekend and when we left them they
were unpacking boxes and putting up pictures. They seemed so happy to
be starting on their adventure.
“The boys had planned a big night out for the next day. James was 20
last week and my son was 20 yesterday. It’s such a tragedy.”
Christopher and James moved into the basement flat from other rooms
in the city after moving to Glasgow last November.
Daniel lived across the road from his best friend Christopher Lewis
in Kippen, Stirlingshire, for 10 years and locals said the pair were
inseparable.
After two years of saving he had finally gathered enough money to
place a deposit for accommodation with his two best friends.
Last Saturday the threesome moved into their new rented property.
Christopher’s father Eric, 54, said: “Daniel phoned his mother on the
night of the fire to ask if she could send him some candles for
decoration for the flat.
“She didn’t like the idea and asked him about a smoke alarm for the
flat. Daniel said `Don’t worry, we’re getting one tomorrow’. It was too
late.”
Chistopher’s mum added: “It wasn’t a bad flat even if it was a
tenement.
“I liked it because it was nicely decorated and it was very airy.
“Daniel was so looking forward to it. He’d saved for around two years
for that flat. When we left the flat on Saturday he seemed so happy. He
kept on saying he was just pleased to be living in the city.”
Her husband added: “Everyone is devastated by what has happened and
we can hardly take it all in.
“They had just moved into their flat and they were looking forward to
living in it.
“The whole community is in shock because the boys are so well known
around here.
“My own son is so lucky to be alive and I feel for the other family.
“We don’t know what happened. This is one day we will never be able
to forget.”
Daniel had studied at Glasgow University after leaving high school
before quitting the history course about a year ago.
Instead he went home working for a time in kitchens at the Pirn Inn,
in Balfron and also working for confectioners Victor James making
tablet.
He moved to Glasgow last week after getting a job at the Royal Bank
of Scotland alongside James.
His family were too upset to talk about the tragedy.
James was the eldest of eight children. His father Sandy has an
electrical business in Balmaha, Loch Lomondside.
The Oak Tree pub and craft shop, also owned by the family, were
closed yesterday as a mark of respect.



Categories: by Shaun Milne, Daily Record articles

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