herald

Monday 27 March 2017

'The priest was at their bedside' - then Jordan slipped away

Neighbours place flowers and teddy bears at the scene of an apartment fire in Cluainin Cronan on Kilcronan Ave. Clondalkin
Neighbours place flowers and teddy bears at the scene of an apartment fire in Cluainin Cronan on Kilcronan Ave. Clondalkin

From the outside, you would scarcely know anything had happened.

If anyone had told you that a terrifying fire had claimed the lives of a pregnant woman and three young children, and left another woman fighting for her life, you would not have believed them.

The Cluainin Cronan complex of small apartment blocks is a women's refuge in Kilcronan Avenue, Clondalkin, operated by the Sonas charity for victims of domestic abuse.

Situated by the still waters of the Grand Canal, it is a small haven of safety and security for those who live there.

family

CCTV cameras monitor the doors which are opened with keycodes, and security lights illuminate the small car park.

But what happened early yesterday morning changed all that for Annemarie O'Brien and her beautiful extended family.

The only visual clues to the fire were the blackened windows, and a soot mark above an air vent.

It is not known how long Annemarie (27) and her daughter Paris, aged just two, had lived at Cluainin Cronan, but those that knew her say she was looking forward to a new future.

Annemarie had reason to be optimistic. She was seven months' pregnant with her first son.

Just 30km away is the neat and homely Aughamore Lane site where Biddy O'Brien and her wider family live.

One of Biddy's cousins, Joanne Moorehouse, told how Biddy and Annemarie had been brought up practically as sisters by Biddy's mother, even though they were first cousins.

Looking over the social media photographs that each woman had posted online, they talk of how they all looked out for each other.

Annemarie pouts into the camera in one selfie she posted to her Facebook page, a pose that many young women of her age adopt when it comes to their profile pics.

Paris - wearing a pretty pink dress and a straw-type hat with a matching little bag, pink ribbons on both - is the picture of cheeky innocence.

Biddy's daughter, Holly, clad in a red coat with a matching hat, stares at the camera with childish wonder, only beginning to understand the world around her.

"They are a very close family and everyone is devastated," said Joanne from the back of the Aughamore Lane site of half-a-dozen purpose-built homes for members of the Travelling community.

None of Annemarie or Biddy's immediate family were in their homes yesterday as morning turned to afternoon.

Instead, they were at bedsides in St James's Hospital and Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, keeping vigil for Biddy and her little boy Jordan as they clung to life.

"The priest is with them," said Joanne as she looked out past the sunny yellow daffodils at the entrance to the small estate, waiting for further news.

Tragically, the four-year-old lost his brave battle for life soon after.

As afternoon turned to dusk, an eerie silence fell as people tried to come to terms with the devastation that had befallen the families of the victims.

One neighbour could not find the words to describe the utter loss and devastation that he was feeling.

"I just can't, it's all too much," he said.

Back at Kilcronan Avenue, people who knew Annemarie, and who know Biddy, arrived to lay flowers and messages of comfort and regret at the scene.

girls

Two teddy bears were placed at the railings of the complex to signify the lives of the two little girls whose lives were lost.

Local resident Anne Keogh was among those at the scene who wanted to lay some token of their sadness.

"I just wanted to pay my respects, it's so sad," she said. "We just wanted to say bye."

The floral tributes and teddy bears were symbols of the innocence that had been taken in the tragedy.

Families that had so much to look forward to will now have to prepare for the funerals of their loved ones.

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