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Saturday 24 August 2019

'Horror fire left our little girl scarred for life - now we're told it was an act of God'

Elizabeth Soffe (5) suffered catastrophic burns in the blaze
Elizabeth Soffe (5) suffered catastrophic burns in the blaze

The parents of a little girl who suffered catastrophic burns to 60pc of her body from a faulty air conditioner in 2014 are still fighting for justice after their case was dismissed as "an act of God".

Dubliners Liam and Sinead Soffe said they were now resigned to living in Birmingham, England, where their daughter Elizabeth (5) will continue to receive treatment for the rest of her life at a specialist burns unit.

Elizabeth lost several fingers as well as an ear, her nose and her hair, on top of having extensive burns all over her body when she was engulfed in flames at the family's former home in Doha, Qatar.

Crying

She was just six months old when an air conditioning unit caught fire as she slept in a cot.

Elizabeth was in flames when her mother heard her crying and managed to pull her to safety.

However, she was left with catastrophic injuries and will need treatment for the rest of her life, the couple told 2FM presenter Jennifer Zamparelli on her show yesterday.

Despite this, the government of Qatar had washed its hands of any responsibility for the incident, said Liam.

"They said because no one deliberately set the fire it was an act of God," he said.

Sinead recalled the horrific events that unfolded after the couple relocated to the wealthy Gulf country for work.

Because Elizabeth rarely cried, Sinead said she knew something was wrong when she heard her baby wailing and discovered to her horror that she was on fire.

"I just ran into the room and grabbed her. She was on fire, I patted her out," she told Ms Zamparelli.

The couple had to wait 40 minutes before an ambulance arrived. And even when they arrived at the hospital, they were told there was little doctors could do because it didn't have a specialist burns unit.

The couple, who also lost all of their belongings in the fire, organised a medevac flight to Birmingham Children's Hospital where they initially thought Elizabeth would need to stay for a year while undergoing treatment.

But they have since relocated to the city permanently so that Elizabeth can keep receiving care.

Despite evidence that the air conditioner had been improperly wired - causing the unit to catch fire - Liam and Sinead found out that an investigation into the accident was closed shortly afterwards.

Closure

The couple have been fighting ever since for someone to take responsibility, Liam said.

"It takes up a huge part of our time trying to get closure," he added.

Despite being heavily scarred, little Elizabeth is coping with her injuries. Although she is aware that she looks different from other children, she is very determined, her parents told the programme.

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