Dashes to ashes rescues dad’s remains
MUM SAVES FIVE KIDS FROM BLAZE
ONCE she had saved the living, Sharon McKeown begged firefighters to go back for the dead.
Having triple-checked her five young children were safe from the devastating blaze that destroyed their home, Ms McKeown suddenly realised she had left behind the one other person she couldn’t live without — her father. Or at least his ashes.
The self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl” begged firefighters to brave intense heat and smoke to rescue her dad’s remains from the St Clair house, in Sydney’s west. On a second attempt they emerged with the charred urn.
“Everything’s gone, I didn’t even have time to get the kids’ shoes, but it was so important I got both the living and the dead out of the house,” Ms McKeown said yesterday. What made the rescue all the more poignant was that today marks the ninth anniversary of her father’s death.
The mother of six was folding washing at her Farmer Pl home about 5.30pm on Friday with baby Brodie in a bassinet by her feet when a smoke alarm sounded.
“I spun around and saw thick black smoke travelling along the roof down the hallway, coming from where one of my little boys and two girls were in their bedrooms,” she said. “I grabbed the girls and started screaming for my son Caleb, but I couldn’t find him.”
Ms McKeown ferried her three daughters — Kieraleigh, 5, Angel, 3, and Oliviyah, 1 — to the front lawn and ran back for five-month-old Brodie. “I remembered the baby was in the bassinet so I grabbed him and threw him to a neighbour outside and went running back for the third time to find Caleb,” she said.
Thankfully Caleb, 4, who Ms McKeown suspects was playing with a lighter in her bed, had escaped out the back door and joined his siblings.
“Caleb is feeling guilty and upset. He keeps saying, ‘I’m sorry Mummy’. But he’s only four years old so I keep telling him it’s not his fault,” she said.
The catastrophe comes just two months after Brodie was released from Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick following sudden cardiac arrest brought on by influenza.
“He is meant to be here for a good reason, there’s something good meant for this child,” Ms McKeown said.
The family are now staying with friends a few doors down the street.
Ms McKeown’s partner Gary Macdonald was at work when the house caught fire. He went to work at 6am the next day wearing clothes he borrowed from their 20-year-old son Ayden, who lives two doors away with his girlfriend’s mother.
Fire and Rescue Supt Josh Turner said: “The mother did an incredible job to make sure she escaped with her children.”
Danielle McDonald embraces her niece Angel, 3; and Sharon McKeown inspects the damage with Angel (inset). Pictures: Jenny Evans