HeadLine: TOTS KILLED IN HOME BLAZE
The Mirror, 24/12/2001, p4&5
by GRAHAM TIBBETTS & SHAUN MILNE
A FOUR-YEAR-OLD girl and her young brother were killed yesterday when
fire ripped through their grandparents’ home.
The blaze is suspected to have been caused by faulty Christmas tree
Tots Ashley and William Scott, three, perished despite the heroic
attempts of firefighters to save them from the inferno.
Their grandparents Peter Morrison, 55, and wife, Isla, 53, were rescued
from the blaze and were last night fighting for their lives.
The children had been staying with the couple as the family made
preparations for Christmas.
The blaze started at the home in Newarthill, Lanarkshire, shortly after
The alarm was raised by a passing taxi driver who alerted police
They tried to mount a desperate rescue bid, but were beaten back by the
Peter, a bricklayer, managed to escape the blaze, and stumbled from the
He sat numbed, choking and wheezing on the pavement outside while
medics tended to him.
Firefighters then had to carry the other three victims out before
paramedics immediately tried to revive them.
All four were rushed to hospital but doctors were unable to save either
of the children.
Last night hairdresser Isla remained in a “serious” condition at
Monklands Hospital in Airdrie while husband Peter was being treated for
burns and smoke injuries at Wishaw General Hospital a few miles away.
Little Ashley and William normally live with mum Sarah Scott and her
partner William Morrison, 28, in Carfin, Lanarkshire.
But they were staying at William’s parents house which had been decked
out specially for them in Christmas fairy-lights as part of the
family’s build-up to Christmas.
Mr Morrison was last night at his mother’s hospital bedside while his
brother Brody was tending to his father.
Distraught Sarah, 25, was being comforted by close friends and family.
One friend said: “They just can’t believe this has happened. They are
numb with shock.” The tragedy has horrified the close-knit mining town
and investigators were last night probing the possibility that the
Christmas lights may have caused the tragic blaze.
Neighbours Joe Bainbridge, 66, and his wife, Marion, 65, who live
behind the Morrisons, were among the first to spot the fire.
Marion recalled: “We were going out at 6am when I heard crackling and
looked out and all I could see were flames everywhere.
“I came back in and phoned the fire brigade. Then I got my husband and
we ran to the house. Peter was sitting on the pavement coughing and
wheezing looking in a right state. We tried to get to the house but
police pushed us back.
“It looked worst at the front window. I immediately thought about the
Christmas lights Isla had put up. They were on all day and night.
“Isla had a really big tree with dozens of lights. She wanted to make a
“I don’t know how she will cope if it turns out they started the fire.
“They will be heartbroken if they live through this.”
Shocked Joe told how he tried to save the family from the burning
house. He said: “By the time we got there, a taxi driver had phoned the
police and they had arrived.
“I tried to get close, but couldn’t because the heat and smoke were too
“Then I saw Peter come out of the house through the flames.
“He lay down in his underpants on the pavement.
“My wife asked him if the kids were in there, but he couldn’t hear her
– he didn’t know where he was. I couldn’t imagine anyone getting out of
there alive, it was that fierce.
“If there was anything I could have done to save those kids, anything,
I would have done it. I’ll never forget that sight for as long as I
Deputy Firemaster David Kennedy, of Strathclyde Fire Brigade, described
it as one of the worst house fires he had seen in his 29 years of
He said: “We knew it was a serious fire and the crews did their best to
rescue people but unfortunately time was against them.
“Three people were rescued but, sadly, the two children succumbed to
“The fire would have reached temperatures of 1,000 degrees Celsius and
the children would have stood no chance. It was a very severe fire –
one of the worst I have ever seen.”
Although Mr Kennedy said it was too early to identify the cause of the
blaze, he said he believed it could have been prevented, citing lights
as a possible cause.
And he urged people to take extra precautions over the festive period.
He said: “We dread this time of year because we can always anticipate
that there will be a tragedy like this.
“It is one that, had our Christmas advice been heeded, may have been
“We would urge people at this time of year to make sure one person is
responsible for doing a series of nightly checks before they go to bed.
“That includes unplugging Christmas lights and making sure cigarettes
and ashtrays are completely extinguished.”
Assistant Divisional Officer Alex Gordon yesterday confirmed the
Morrison’s Christmas lights would be part of the investigation into the
cause of the fatal blaze.
He said last night: “If these lights were kept on 24 hours a day then
that will definitely be one line of inquiry we will explore in this
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