Man could hear fire victim screaming inside burning house
A young man who heroically defied smoke and flames in a desperate bid to save three people trapped in a blazing house admitted he was "heartbroken" at not being able to save all of them.
Tim 'Timbo' Coleman (27) was hailed a hero for his incredible bravery in trying to get into the blazing house at St Colman's Park in Macroom, Co Cork, early yesterday morning.
Two men died in the 4am fire, Kenneth 'Kenny' Relihan (26) and Noel O'Mahony (62), while a third occupant, Noirín McAuliffe (61), suffered serious smoke inhalation.
Mrs McAuliffe, who is Mr Relihan's mother, last night remained in a serious but stable condition in Cork University Hospital (CUH) after jumping from an upper window of the terraced house to escape the smoke and flames.
"I just wish they had all gotten out safe," Mr Coleman said.
"But I did absolutely everything I could. The smoke and heat was just too much.
"I kept trying to barge in the door with my shoulder. My friend Ryan was there helping me. When we got the door down, I tried to go in," he added.
"But I only managed a few steps and the smoke was too thick. I had no choice but to come back out. It was just desperate."
Mr Coleman said he was taken aback by the ferocity of the blaze which was detected shortly before 4am.
Locals stressed that, but for Mr Coleman, Mrs McAuliffe might not have survived.
His mother, Angela Coleman, said: "If my son had gone in there he wouldn't have made it out again, that is for sure."
Despite the heroics of Mr Coleman, the two men were pronounced dead having been removed from the burning house by members of Macroom Fire Brigade.
Mrs Coleman said there were tragic scenes in the tight-knit housing estate as emergency services battled in vain to save the two men.
Both were pronounced dead at the scene before they could be transferred to CUH.
"When I came out, my son was trying to go into the house to get them," she said. "I could see him kicking at the front door. Then they grabbed a ladder to put it at the top window because they could see someone upstairs.
"But they couldn't see nothing with the smoke. My son was trying to kick the whole front door in because we thought we heard someone shouting around the front door or hall.
"He managed to kick in the door and went in as far as the stairs but he had to back out again. The smoke and heat was just too much. He was determined to go back in because he knew they were trapped in there.
"He (Timbo) could hear Kenny screaming and he said he couldn't listen to it - he had to do something to help.
"We had to grab him and pull him back," she added.
"Poor Kenny was trying to get out. He was downstairs. We think Noel was upstairs. It was horrible - bloody horrible. That poor young fella."
Mr Coleman, a hotel worker, was later treated at CUH for minor burns and the effects of smoke inhalation before being released. Mr Relihan worked locally in various jobs while the other deceased, Noel O'Mahony, had previously been a furniture salesman and became a great-grandfather late last year.
Mr Relihan was Mrs McAuliffe's son and a lifelong friend of Tim Coleman. The men had only bumped into each other a few hours before the tragedy while out socialising in Macroom on Sunday evening.
Mr O'Mahony, a shop worker and father-of-three from Macroom, is a family friend who was visiting the McAuliffe house.
The house was sealed off yesterday for a full examination. However, gardaí and Macroom Fire Brigade sources said the early indications are the fire was accidental.