Friday, April 26, 2024

Father still in coma after fatal Flat Bush fire

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TRAGEDY: The house that went up in flames at Plantation Avenue killing three family members. Times photo Wayne Martin.

Five-year-old Bareth Kaileshan, his mother Bhamini Theiventhiran, 39, and grandmother Umadhevi Theiventhiran, 66, all died in a house fire in Flat Bush on December 22, 2016. Farida Master talks to some of the neighbours.

It was frantic knocking on their door that woke up Jojo at around 3.15am on December 22.

She was shocked to see panic-stricken neighbours at her doorstep.

The two-storey Plantation Avenue house diagonally opposite her home in a quiet subdivision of Flat Bush was engulfed in flames.

The top storey of the house was gutted, with all the windows blown out.

“Anxious neighbours were knocking on all the doors, asking people to get out of their homes. Everyone was afraid that the fire would spread to the neighbouring homes,” she says.

Within minutes, the ambulance arrived. Fire appliances rushed to the site and defused the flames that extended more than a metre from the house.

Emergency services were alerted at 3.25am. Eight appliances attended. The two-storey house was well involved when they arrived. Three of the family members died at the scene. Three were rescued.

Jojo points to the burned-out house saying 47-year-old Kailesh Thanabalasingham, owner of the home, escaped by leaping out of the window, onto the roof and across the neighbour’s fence.

Mr Thanabalasingham, an executive officer of the Refugee Council of NZ, was badly injured and burnt but he continued shouting for help. He was desperate to save his wife, his five-year-old son and his in-laws, who were visiting their daughter for the Christmas holidays.

Everyone heard a loud boom as the roof of the house caved in.

Amidst the hysteria and blare of sirens was Mr Thanabalasingham’s daughter Krishah, a shell-shocked 11-year-old, sitting on Jojo’s front yard.

The frightened girl was clinging on to her granddad.

“The young boy was whisked away in the ambulance with his dad who was badly burnt,” says one of the neighbours.

According to the neighbours, the Sri Lankan family had moved into the neighbourhood just nine months ago.

“Initially we thought it was a domestic as my dad heard loud screaming and shouting,” says a 15-year-old who lives two houses down.

“They were talking in a native language. It was only later we realised that the house was on fire when we saw the reflection of the flames in our neighbour’s pool. What we thought was the crash of plates was actually the breaking of glass windows.”

The place has been cordoned off by the police.

While the Fire Services and police are working on finding out the cause of the fire, Phil Faidley, Fire Risk management officer, Counties Manukau Fire Area says they are continuing to review the information they collected during their investigation, aiming to determine the origin and cause of this tragic fire.

“We hope to be able to make a final determination, possibly as early as the end of this week. It is a thorough, methodical process we go through to determine the cause of every fire attended by the NZ Fire Service, particularly where this level of loss and tragedy is experienced.

“We want to make sure we get it correct, for the sake of those directly and indirectly affected by the incident, and also to learn enough from this fire to help prevent similar tragedies happening in the future.”

Five-year-old Bareth Kaileshan, his mother Bhamini Theiventhiran (right), 39, and grandmother Umadhevi Theiventhiran, 66, all died in the house fire.

On January 5, hundreds of mourners packed the chapel at the Manukau Memorial Gardens, spilling outside as friends and family gathered to remember the lives of those they lost.

The service was also attended by Race Relations commissioner Dame Susan Devoy who said the unstinted support showed “what New Zealand was all about”.

Krishah said her mother was the ‘best baker, best woman alive and best mother’. Bareth, she said, was a ‘jolly good brother’ who she would swap for ‘no other.’

Kailesh, 47, remains in a critical condition in Middlemore Hospital. He is in an induced coma.

His daughter and his father-in-law who are both traumatised are understood to have been in bedrooms downstairs and escaped unscathed.

Outreach coordinator, Refugees as Survivors NZ, Diana Swarbrick says that they worked closely with Mr Thanabalasingham over the years and wanted to set up a Givealittle page.

“We felt setting up the Givealittle page was the least we could do for him. All proceeds from this will go into a trust to be set up by barrister Deborah Manning.”

As of date they have raised $78,854.

A post on the page says: “Kailesh Thanabalasingham worked tirelessly for the Refugee Council of New Zealand aiding refugees and asylum seekers in the community who were struggling.”

Lawyer, Deborah Manning, described Kailesh as a “tireless advocate for vulnerable people in New Zealand.

“Khailesh is one of those people who you can always count on,” she said.

By: Farida Master

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