Tele: Hero cop, firefighters save teens from fatal house fire


An off-duty cop is among a group of “heroes” praised for saving two teenage boys in a “race against time” after a “devastating” house fire claimed their grandmother‘s life in Sydney’s southwest.

A home on the corner of Loftus St and Evaline St, Campsie, caught alight about 5pm on Tuesday with three people inside, according to police.

An 80 year-old woman, Zhong Ali Li, and two teenage boys aged 14 and 16 were evacuated from the property but Ms Zhong died despite the efforts of emergency services.

The two teenagers, believed to be her grandsons and cousins to each other, were evacuated from the home and treated by paramedics for burns and smoke inhalation.

Campsie police crime manager Detective Acting Inspector Andrew Mackay was driving on Evaline St when he saw smoke “billowing” from the property and leapt into action with the help of a 53 year-old male bystander.

Det Insp Mackay tried to force his way into the home but found the smoke was “too thick”, calling in colleagues who dragged one of the teenage boys to safety.

“I drove into the street and saw the house was clearly on fire, quickly called for urgent assistance,” Det Insp Mackay said.

“I tried to enter through the rear of the house but the smoke was too thick … fortunately my colleagues arrived within a very short period and entered the house, removing one of the young boys, their actions were heroic.”

Constables Jarrad Annakin and Brooke Bowe-Williams raced to the scene and dragged the 16 year-old boy to safety.

Mr Annakin said he and Ms Bowe-Williams did their best to give the 16 year-old “a fighting chance”.

“The small boy was in the rear bedroom and we were able to drag him into the hallway, it was a really good group effort from ambulance, fireys and police,” Mr Annakin said.

“Unfortunately the elderly woman passed away but it was nice we could give the kids a fighting chance.”

One of the boys was flown to Westmead Hospital and the other taken to Royal North Shore Hospital, with both now in induced comas and in critical conditions.

Five police officers and the 53 year-old bystander were all treated at Canterbury Hospital for smoke inhalation.

Acting Fire and Rescue Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell said the home proved “challenging” for firefighters to enter and extinguish, but praised a firefighter at the scene who rescued the other teenager by breaking open a window and dragging the boy out.

He said the firefighter was filling up a crew’ water supply when he noticed the boy’s body through the glass and pried open the window’s bars with bolt cutters, pulling the teenager to safety by himself.

“The home was difficult to navigate, there were lots of items in the house and full of thick black smoke so visibility was next to zero,” Acting Comm Fewtrell said.

“But one of our firefighters saw a body through the window and took immediate action … to do that was an amazing effort, and goes to show the quick thinking and dedication to keep people safe.”


The home which was sold to Ms Zhong and two others in April 1990 for $325,000, was destroyed in the blaze.

Police and fire investigators returned to the scene about 8:30am on Wednesday, wearing masks and hard hats as they inspected the blackened interior of the home.

It‘s not yet known what caused the blaze, which is reported to have started in the front bedroom of the home, while investigators are looking into whether the property had any smoke alarms.

A report on Ms Zhong’s death will be prepared for the coroner.

Campsie Police Area Commander Detective Superintendent Kerrie Lewis expressed her condolences to the family but congratulated everyone involved for their efforts.

“It was a race against time but NSW Police and emergency services did not hesitate to enter the house, knowing there were people who needed to be rescued,” Det Supt Lewis said.

“The rescue efforts that I observed yesterday were nothing short of heroic by those involved.”

Neighbour Maria Ribeiro has lived on Evaline St since 1994, and witnessed the “devastating” fire unfold across the road from her home.

Ms Ribeiro spoke of the “quiet” 80 year-old woman who she used to see in the company of the two teenage boys around the neighbourhood.

“It was very scary, the firefighters were having problems connecting the water and getting into the home, we could smell burning plastic … I thought the children were going to die in there,” Ms Ribeiro said.

“They got them out, but I was very sad to hear the lady died … she was very quiet.

“It’s very traumatic for the children, I hope they are okay, very tragic.”Stay informed

SMH: ‘Nothing short of heroic’: Praise for police officers who rescued boys from house fire

The quick actions of an off-duty police officer and his colleagues are being hailed for saving the lives of two cousins in a fatal house fire in Sydney’s south-west.

Campsie crime manager Andrew Mackay was driving past the house on Tuesday when he noticed the flames. With the help of a bystander, the acting detective inspector tried to gain access to the rear of the home on Evaline Street, Campsie, but the smoke was too thick.

Inside, two cousins and a grandmother were trapped.

Within moments, constables Jarred Annakin and Brooke Bowen-Williams from Detective Mackay’s station arrived. The pair accessed the home and found a 16-year-old boy in the rear bedroom of the home. Constable Annakin said they dragged him to safety.

Meanwhile, a firefighter spotted the boy’s 14-year-old cousin in the front of the house. They grabbed a pair of bolt cutters to remove the window bars and pull the younger boy to safety.

Despite the efforts of emergency services, the boy’s grandmother, Zhong Ai Li, 80, died at the scene.

“It was nice to give those kids a fighting chance,” Constable Annakin said.

On Wednesday, police and fire and rescue investigators remained at the house to determine the cause of the fire. Burnt personal belongings, including parts of a computer and papers, are strewn across the lawn and line the blackened hallway of the home.Advertisement

Campsie Police Area Commander Detective Superintendent Kerrie Lewis praised the actions of her officers. She said the force’s thoughts were with the family who had lost their grandmother and their home.

“There were challenging circumstances – trying to gain entry to that house, and it was a race against time, with the fire and smoke billowing,” she said.

“Police and [NSW Fire and Rescue] didn’t hesitate to enter the house, knowing there were people trapped inside that needed to be rescued. The rescue efforts that I observed yesterday were nothing short of heroic.”

The teenagers were treated for smoke inhalation and burns by multiple NSW Ambulance crews. One boy was taken to Westmead Hospital and the other to Royal North Shore Hospital – both in a serious condition. On Wednesday, they remain in induced comas and are in critical conditions.

A bystander, aged in his 50s, suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to Canterbury Hospital in a stable condition.

A report will be prepared for the coroner.

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