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Friends who escaped previous fires both killed in house blaze

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Gardai begin their investigation at the house in Kells, Co Meath, where John ‘Boy’ Power and Martin ‘Biggy’ Reilly died from suspected smoke inhalation

Gardai begin their investigation at the house in Kells, Co Meath, where John ‘Boy’ Power and Martin ‘Biggy’ Reilly died from suspected smoke inhalation

Colin Keegan

Gardai begin their investigation at the house in Kells, Co Meath, where John ‘Boy’ Power and Martin ‘Biggy’ Reilly died from suspected smoke inhalation

Two men who had escaped separate house fires in recent years have died in a blaze together.

John 'Boy' Power (44) and Martin 'Biggy' Reilly (52) lost their lives in a house fire in Kells, Co Meath.

Gardai and emergency services were called to the scene of the fire at Blackthorn Crescent housing estate in Kells at around 3am yesterday.

The two men were pronounced dead at the scene and are believed to have died from smoke inhalation.

Two other occupants of the house, a man and a woman, escaped and were not injured in the blaze.

Investigation

Mr Power and the man who escaped were both from Navan and did not live in the house. Mr Reilly and the woman, who also escaped, are both from Kells.

Gardai are investigating the circumstances of the incident and the house was sealed off for investigation.

The house had little external damage from the blaze.

It is believed both men escaped from two other separate house fires in recent years.

Local man John Tallon said Kells was "hugely saddened" by the death of Mr Reilly.

"Biggy was living here for the last 16 years and everyone knew him," he said.

"He was an extremely well-liked individual.

"He was a brilliant plasterer by trade, and if you ever needed a hand with anything, he was always very obliging.

"We just can't get over the news."

Mr Reilly was well known in the town and his father used to work in the popular Headfort Arms Hotel in Navan as a caretaker.

Sympathies

Fianna Fail councillor Mike Bray said the deaths were a "massive blow" to Kells.

"Our sympathies go out to the families and the neighbours in the area.

"It's a massive blow for a small town and a rural town like Kells. People are just shocked waking up this morning," he added.

Sinn Fein councillor in Navan Edward Fennessy said that he knew John 'Boy' Power very well and that the town of Navan was rocked.

Mr Power was not married and did not have any children.

"I grew up in the same part of Navan as him and I would have known him as a young lad playing football in the area, he was a nice lad and a quiet guy.

"He didn't pass any remarks on anyone and kept to himself and he was well known.

"It's a huge shock and I couldn't believe it. I'd like to extend my condolences to the family," Mr Fennessy added.

It is understood that Mr Power lost his mother shortly before Christmas and so his death is another blow to his family.

Gentleman

Kells Athletics Club paid an emotional tribute to "true gentleman" Mr Reilly.

"It's with heavy hearts we learned of the passing of a true gentleman 'Biggy' Reilly of Kells," the club wrote on Facebook.

"Our sincere condolences to our club members Aoife and Ann-maire and the rest of the Reilly, O'Connell family at this tragic time.

"Biggy will fondly be remembered for his kindness and generosity to many people in Kells.

"He always had a smile on his face and he would never pass ya.

"A harmless gentle soul. Thinking of you all at this sad time."

Meath County Council, which owns the house in Kells, said it was awaiting the results of the garda investigation into the cause of the fire and extended its sympathies to the families of the deceased.