A FIREFIGHTER has described to a court the harrowing moment he found “casualties everywhere” as he stormed into a burning house to search for children.
Michael Patterson, from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, was part of a crew who fought through flames looking for six youngsters trapped inside the semi-detached house in Victory Road, Derby.
Mr Patterson told Nottingham Crown Court – where the children’s parents, Mick and Mairead Philpott, and a third defendant, Paul Mosley, are on trial for manslaughter – that the fire had created such thick black smoke he had to try to locate the children by touch and not sight.
Referring to a statement Mr Patterson made shortly after the fire on 11 May last year, prosecutor Richard Latham, QC, asked him: “Did you become aware at this point that, as you put it, there seemed to be casualties everywhere upstairs?”
“Yes, that’s correct,” Mr Patterson replied.
Six siblings – Jade, ten, John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, Jayden, five, and Duwayne, 13 – all died after the fire which engulfed the family home in Allenton in the early hours.
Philpott, 56, his 31-year-old wife and Mosley, 46, have all denied six counts of manslaughter in relation to the children’s deaths. It is alleged they started the fire in a botched plan to frame Philpott’s former mistress Lisa Willis, with whom he was locked in a custody battle over their children.
Mr Patterson said he and a colleague fought back flames with water before making their way upstairs in the three- bedroom house after being told the children were still inside.
The fire was raging downstairs, it had burnt through the plastic front door of the property and an open window at the top of the stairs had created a “chimney effect”, filling the entire upper level with acrid smoke, the court heard.
Mr Patterson and a second firefighter, Steve Fell, using breathing apparatus, went into a first bedroom where they found one of the children.
Mr Fell bent over a bed and picked up the child before handing the casualty to Mr Patterson.
Mr Latham asked him: “Was it obviously a child, rather than an adult?”
“It was obviously a child,” Mr Patterson replied.
He said he cradled the youngster in his arms as he began to make his way out of the house so they could receive medical treatment for the youngster. He laid the child down on the pavement, where a paramedic came over, before going back inside the house.
In a second bedroom containing bunkbeds, the firefighters found another child who was also carried from the house.
Mr Patterson said a second breathing apparatus crew had also entered the property and they were now working as a team of four instead of the usual two because of the situation.
“It was quite confusing, quite chaotic, with a great sense of urgency,” he said.
Two other children were found in a bedroom at the front of the house which contained a double bed.
The trial continues.