Dashes to ashes res­cues dad’s re­mains


The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - JACK MORPHET

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

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