04 August 2005

Hotel 'hero' saves guests in fire


The fire caused damage to the hotel roof

A Belfast man has been hailed a hero after alerting dozens of holidaymakers to a fire in their Donegal hotel.

About 40 guests were in the Beech Hotel in Downings when the fire broke out in the early hours of the morning.

Several fire crews tackled the blaze which damaged the second floor. Gardai said the man's actions had saved many lives, including three children.

A woman in her 30s from Northern Ireland has been arrested and is aiding with police inquiries at Milford.

Some of the guests have been describing their experiences.

The Fay family from Omagh, County Tyrone, have said they are fortunate to be alive.

They were asleep when another hotel guest banged on their door and woke them up at about 0400 BST.

Marty Fay said the "Good Samaritan", Freddie Rea, wrapped his three-year-old son in a blanket and carried him out.

Freddie Rea has been hailed a hero

He also got the older children, aged seven and nine, out quickly.

Mr Fay described Mr Rea as a "complete hero, an absolute hero".

"It was not just my door he was rapping; he rapped on everybody's door. He is basically a hero. Superb. My kids are here today because of him."

Superintendent Vincent O'Brien said Mr Rea had saved many lives.

"I would like to compliment him because I believe that many lives were saved here last night," he said.

"Shortly after 4.00am this man saw smoke bellowing out from one of the bedroom doors and he actually went round and knocked on every door of the hotel.

"He managed to evacuate just over 36 people in the hotel - three of those young children."

However, Mr Rea has played down his 'hero' role.

"I just went into the room, wrapped the baby - the three-year-old - in a blanket and carried him downstairs," he said.

"I just went up and banged on the doors, generally alerting people. There was nothing really spectacular about it."

Investigation into cause

Hotel guest Joe McGowan said it was an horrendous experience.

"I have been in bombs in Belfast throughout the period of the Troubles and I think that was the most frightening, because I realised that if I did not get out of that room I was going to be burnt," he said.

"Really and truthfully, I don't know how I got out."

The owner's son, Darragh McClafferty, said he was relieved that everyone was safe.

"That was the main worry: that everyone was out and safe," he said.

"That was the main check straight away. That is all you have got to think of, there is nothing else.

"I mean, bricks and mortar can be rebuilt."

An investigation is under way to try to establish the exact cause of the fire.

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