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Teen who rescued nephew from halting site blaze is living a nightmare

NewsBy Lynne Kelleher
Teen who rescued nephew from halting site blaze is living a nightmare

The heroic teenager who saved the life of his young nephew in the Carrickmines blaze tragedy has revealed he will never be able to sleep again.

In a new hard-hitting RTE documentary, 15-year-old John Connors relives the horror of the halting site fire which claimed the lives of his brother Thomas Connors, 27, his wife Sylvia, 25, and three of their children.

Their four-year-old son Thomas Connors was rescued from the horror fire by his teenage uncle in the halting site fire, where ten people, including a pregnant mother, lost their lives last October.

The documentary, I am Traveller, follows Love Hate’s John Connors as he gives his opinion on racial stereotypes and Traveller identity within Ireland today.

In a harrowing excerpt in the documentary, the actor talks to heartbroken young teenager John Connors as they revisit the Carrickmines site where his older brother’s family were killed in a catastrophic blaze in minutes.

“I stayed in that back room there look,” he said pointing to the charred remains of the mobile home where he had been staying with his older brother.

“It burned in five minutes. It was gone, Thomas and his family’s place. I don’t think I will ever get a proper sleep again (with) what happened. You are lying down and thinking and keep checking all this and all that.

“You can’t sleep after that. I don’t know how your future would be alright. I can’t say my future is going to be deadly, it is surely not going not be.”

With his voice shaking with emotion, he pointed to the electrical wires still hanging outside the mobile home saying: “They are supposed to be going underneath the ground. The rain shouldn’t be near them at all.”

The footage was shot just weeks after the horror tragedy when there were protests by settled residents against plans to accommodate the grieving survivors.

“I would love,” said the teenager sighing, “if the council would put us into a proper place with proper space between sheds. That would be good.”

The Love/Hate star, who is seen urging the young teenager to talk to a professional about his grief and to stay in school, said in the documentary he was shocked by protests from settled people to re-accommodating the grief-stricken fire survivors.

He said: “When the council eventually gave in to the residents, they found somewhere to put John and his family that no one could object to. A car park next to what used to be the local dump.”

In the documentary, Kathleen, the devastated sister of Thomas Connors, told how she had rescued baby Mary, the youngest victim of the fire and placed her in her bed in her own mobile home to keep her safe.

But while running back to trying and save more family members from her brother’s caravan metres away, she looked back to see her own home combust as her small son ran out the door.

“This is like a nightmare. It is not going in our brain that our brother and his family are dead, his wife and his babbles,” she said with her voice shaking.

“My other brother passed me baby Mary and I put her in my bed thinking she was safe and I pushed her in and by the time I looked back my place was gone,” she said wiping tears from her face.

She said: “My child was coming running out the door. He tried to lift her out the door to me.” 

Family friend, Lisa Algan, said she was very concerned for 15-year-old John Connors who had been sleeping next to his brother Thomas when the fire started.

She said: “He has seen more than most of us will ever witness in a lifetime and he is only 15 years old.”

The young teenager told how he had been called a “knacker” just weeks before the tragedy when he called to a house looking for work.

The Love/Hate star said things need to change radically for the Traveller community in Ireland.

He said: “Without formal recognition of our identity, and a willingness on both sides to confront stereotyping and discrimination, real change will be a long time coming.”