A DERVOCK man has spoken of his anguish at the loss of his good friend and neighbour in a ferocious blaze which ripped through a cottage leading to the death of 64-year-old well-known and popular local character Albert Kane.
Steven Mitchell (53) and neighbour Aidan Kelly (45), had both bravely tried to battle their way into 64-year-old Albert’s two-storey cottage on the Bush Road after flames took hold after 9pm on Tuesday March 6.
But both were beaten back by flames which also claimed Albert’s faithful pet dog a Jack Russell Terrier called ‘PePe’ which was often by his side.
Albert, who was a brother of Mary and Samuel, lived alone in a semi-detached cottage which was adjoined by Mr Mitchell’s home.
And hours after the flames died down there was further drama when flames took hold again and spread to Mr Mitchell’s house, causing severe damage and leaving him homeless.
Mr Kane’s cousin, Sadie Kane (58), paid tribute to Albert.
She said: “I could only describe my cousin as a real character. There was definitely only one Albert about. He would have been the life and soul of the party and a wee bit more. What has happened has come as a terrible shock.
“For his size he was a very big person. He was a very small person with a big character. He was a well-liked happy character with a great personality and everyone loved him. He is going to be missed. He had one brother and a sister but a large family circle.”
Fire chiefs said on Wednesday March 7 they did not believe there were any suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire.
Steven Mitchell, was dozing downstairs in his home after working a 12 hour shift at the JTI cigarette factory in Ballymena.
Aidan Kelly, who lives a short distance away, had spotted the flames and raced to the scene and awakened Mr Mitchell who had a lucky escape as smoke had already seeped into his property.
Said Mr Mitchell: “Aidan was banging on the window and asked me if I had a torch saying Albert’s home was on fire. We both went and tried the door but couldn’t get in because of the flames and when we went round the back we still couldn’t get in.
“We got a hosepipe but there was nothing we could do to save Albert and by that stage the police arrived and they tried to get in too but to no avail and a short time later the Fire Service were here.”
Mr Mitchell said: “It is a terrible shame that Albert and his pet Jack Russell terrier PePe have died in the fire. Albert was single and lived on his own and he was a real character. He was great crack and he liked to bet on the horses.
“He was a good neighbour and we had a lot of fun. I am missing him already. He kept a few wee hens and they are still running about the garden there now,” said Mr Mitchell.
Mr Mitchell revealed that hours after the first fire was dealt with a second blaze erupted as he was in Aidan Kelly’s house.
“Somebody said Albert’s house has gone on fire again but then we noticed it was my house and it was well alight and there was nothing we could do to save it. There is a large hole in the roof and the house is virtually destroyed and I am now homeless. I will have to make arrangements to live elsewhere.”
Aidan Kelly said Mr Kane’s death was a terrible tragedy for the area and he said Mr Kane, who was well-known in the district, will be missed.
He added: “We tried our best to get into the house but it was too late unfortunately.”
Fire Service Group Commander Bill Willsdon, speaking on Wednesday March 7, said crews from Ballymoney and Coleraine responded to the blaze at Mr Kane’s home and they found a “well-developed fire”.
“There was smoke issuing form the house already and the fire was blazing inside.”
Crews entered the house wearing breathing apparatus and extinguished the fire, and found the man inside the semi-detached property. He was later declared dead at the scene.