Family trapped in high-rise flat during fire which killed neighbour have two days to move back in - or be made homeless
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A mother-of-two who was trapped in a 16th floor flat with her children during a fire that killed her neighbour said she’s been ordered by the council to move back in - or be left homeless.
Shanon Hathway, 37, is now raising money to move somewhere ‘safe to live’ for herself and her family - after the devastating fire made her ‘too scared’ to return. The blaze, which was caused by an electric bike, took place in the early hours of Sunday, September 25 in a council flat tower block in Easton.
Her neighbour, Abdul Jabar Oryakhel, a 30-year-old asylum seeker from Afghanistan, died as he fell from his window to escape the blaze in Twinnell House. Two others from the same flat clung on to the side of the building until the fire brigade could provide a crane big enough to bring them to safety.
The family are currently staying in a nearby Travelodge, but claim they have been told that they must move back into the flat on Friday, October 14, even if they don’t feel safe. Mrs Hathway has been told if she doesn’t want to return to the flat, she must present herself and her children to the council as homeless as they will not be re-homed.
Her whole family, including husband, Keith Hathway, 17-year-old stepdaughter, Armarni , 4-year-old daughter, Lexi-Jane and 5-month-old son, Mckenzie were also sound asleep when the fire started. Despite the proximity of the blaze, their fire alarm did not sound and the family were trapped in their front room for 40 minutes.
She said: “It was about 2am and my son woke up crying, when he never wakes up in the night anymore. I laid him on the bed and I couldn’t settle him because there was loads of banging - I didn’t think anything of it at first because the next door flat are all delivery drivers so there’s usually quite a lot of noise.
“But it just kept getting louder and louder so eventually I went out to tell them to be quiet before they woke up my other kids - that’s when I saw the smoke in the hallway. I ran back in and woke my husband, we got the baby and the other two kids in the front room by the window with cloths in our mouths.
“Our fire alarm didn’t even start sounding until we had all been coughing in the front room for 15 minutes. My husband called the fire brigade again and said ‘I don’t know where you are but where is this fire in conjunction to our flat?
“20 minutes later they came up and took us out - it didn’t seem like they even knew we were trapped.”
Mrs Hathway and her family were then rushed down the 16 flights of stairs, out the back of the building. She has since experienced a severe PTSD episode, and her four-year-old daughter has also suffered mentally since the event.
She said: “I’ve been under a mental health crisis team and have had to add medication as well - I’m really struggling. My PTSD comes from the death of another child, so being stuck on the 16th floor unable to get my children to safety was extremely triggering.
“My step-daughter was making out to me she was alright, but I heard her on the phone to her mum panicking. My little girl, Lexi, has been really frightened by it all - hearing the sirens and being checked by the doctors and all the hospital, I think it’s just blown her head.
“She keeps saying she couldn’t breathe in the fire, she could only breathe when she was out. My daughters room is the one closest to the front door, it was lucky she was asleep on the sofa with her sister that night.
“She’s gone back to school but for the last three days they’ve had to drag her off me kicking and screaming, and normally school’s not something she has a problem with. Every morning I take my daughter to school and from the school gate I can see the flat that was on fire all black outside, it’s horrible.”
Following the fire, a Bristol City Council spokesperson said investigators had found the fire measures ‘worked well and the fire was contained in the flat where it began’. They added there was some smoke damage to communal areas of the building, but claimed “no other flats were directly damaged by the fire.”
However, Mrs Hathwell disagrees with this statement and does not want to return, claiming the flat is not fit for purpose for a young family.
She said: “I was furious when I saw that statement - there’s lots of smoke damage in my flat. My daughter’s room has smoke damage and we have a massive cupboard that wouldn’t be any good anymore.
“My husband managed to get my late mother’s present for my daughter and his work stuff out of the flat - but everything else I don’t want, I can’t have it round me it’s too triggering. There’s a number of reasons I wouldn’t want to move back in, the fire engine ladders only go to the ninth floor - they shouldn’t have children up there anyway.
“I only found out the other day that there’s no smoke alarms on the landing. They said everything worked as it it should but the fire door would have contained us where the fire was. The only way the smoke alarms were acting as they should is if they were supposed to act silent.
“Moving back would completely tip me over the edge because of my fear around my children and my daughter is really suffering.”
Bristol City Council has been contacted for comment.
So far, more than £1,000 has been donated to Shanon’s fundraiser, which can be visited here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/family-thats-lost-everything-in-fire