The devastated mother of twin girls who died in a fire at a commune near Byron Bay has opened up about her ‘monumental pain’, saying the loss of her ‘sweet angels’ is ‘too much to bear’.
Akira Garton broke her silence after the horrific tragedy which saw little Ophelia and Tarrow, 4, choke to death on toxic smoke at the ‘off-grid’ Goonengerry commune home on Sunday morning, police believe.
The girls had been visiting their father James Wright, a political activist who was reportedly outside at a bonfire when a candle was left burning on top of a piano.
A fundraiser set up on behalf of the heartbroken family has now raised more than $75,000, as the tightknit northern NSW community struggles to come to terms with the loss.
Akira Garton (pictured) broke her silence after the horrific tragedy which saw little Ophelia and Tarrow, 4, choke to death on toxic smoke at the ‘off-grid’ Goonengerry commune home on Sunday morning, police believe
The twins (pictured) had been visiting their father James Wright, a political activist who was reportedly outside at a bonfire when a candle was left burning on top of a piano
‘Words cannot express waking up to day three of these beautiful bunnikins not here,’ she posted to Instagram.
‘No more mumma … no more hands, no more smiles, no more dancing, no more moments like this, happy, so happy.’
Later speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Ms Garton said the ‘monumental pain of waking up’ without her twins was ‘too much to bear’.
‘There are no words to describe the immense loss of our dear little Ophelia and sweetest Tarrow. I’m still in immense shock and disbelief,’ she said.
‘You are so very dearly loved by both parents, eldest sister, family, neighbours and the entire community.
‘You will never leave our hearts, sweet angels.’
She recounted how the sisters born two months premature were ‘rarely separated’ and had ‘fighting spirits’.
The twins loved dancing and drawing, their mother said, and looked up to their seven-year-old sister.
‘The monumental pain of waking up without you both is too much to bear,’ Ms Garton posted to Instagram along with picture of her twins (pictured, Tarrow)
‘There are no words to describe the immense loss of our dear little Ophelia and sweetest Tarrow (pictured). I’m still in immense shock and disbelief’, their mother said
She recounted how the sisters, born two months premature, were ‘rarely separated’ and had ‘fighting spirits’ (pictured, Ophelia)
The former couple’s eldest daughter, Maitreya, 7, was also at the commune on the night as part of parenting arrangements but was not affected by the blaze.
Ms Garton earlier shared a sweet photo alongside Ophelia and Tarrow on Tuesday morning, smiling as both of her twins lean into her.
The picture was taken just four weeks before their tragic deaths.
Ms Garton has been in touch with a law firm and hopes to get to the bottom of why her young daughters were left in the home alone near an open flame.
It’s understood a candle was burning atop a piano next to the girls throughout the night, while their father attended a communal bonfire nearby with his girlfriend.
Akira Garton shared a sweet photo alongside Ophelia and Tarrow on Tuesday morning, three days after they died from smoke inhalation while visiting their father and his girlfriend in a Goonengerry commune
Mr Wright (pictured in 2019) ran as the Ballina candidate for the Keep Sydney Open independent state political party
A sweet picture, which shows Ms Garton (pictured) smiling in the middle of the twins, was taken just four weeks before their tragic deaths
He and his girlfriend arrived back to the home just before 4am and noticed smoke billowing from the room.
They called emergency services, but the twins could not be revived.
The mother-of-three has struggled to respond to messages or answer calls in the days since the tragedy because she ‘has no words beyond disbelief’ and is still processing the loss, friends said.
Ms Garton’s father, the twins’ grandfather, described Tarrow and Ophelia as ‘bright, playful identical twins that had a sparkle in their eye and angelic features’.
‘Akira and her family are shattered to the core; they have an unbearable amount of grief to carry and heartbreaking pain to endure,’ he said.
‘A loss of this magnitude is almost unimaginable, and to even try is quite unbearable.
‘A sorrow this complete takes away even the ability to breathe.’
Ms Garton and the twins’ father, political activist James Wright, also share seven-year-old Maitreya, who was not injured in the fire
Residents who choose to live off-grid at the Nunkeri Multi Occupancy commune (pictured) consider each other family, and were enjoying a collective bonfire well into the early hours of Sunday morning when tragedy struck
‘I’m told Jimmy’s in a bad way, when he was canvassing as a candidate for Keep Sydney Open in the Lower House, the girls were always with him,’ Tyson Kho, CEO for Keep Sydney Open, said (pictured, the twins’ father)
Mr Wright ran as the Ballina candidate for the Keep Sydney Open independent state political party in 2019.
‘I’m told Jimmy’s in a bad way, when he was canvassing as a candidate for Keep Sydney Open in the Lower House, the girls were always with him,’ Tyson Kho, CEO for Keep Sydney Open, told The Daily Telegraph.
‘He was the most loving father, he’s really cut up over this.’
A woman from the commune said: ‘He was on the floor on his knees, he was crying “no, no”, he was inconsolable.
‘Our hearts are broken for him. Jimmy loved his girls, he took them everywhere with him. He’s in a bad state. He blames himself. He’s really shaken up.’
Daily Mail Australia does not suggest any wrongdoing on the part of the girls’ father.
A GoFundMe appeal created to help Mr Wright financially as he plans for the girls’ funerals and has already raised $75,000.
A member of the public weeps while holding a bouquet of flowers outside the home where the twin four-year-old girls died following a house fire
The girls were sleeping together in a bedroom within close proximity to a piano. Sitting on the piano, police believe, was a lit candle which caused the fire
Mr Wright ran as the Ballina candidate for the Keep Sydney Open independent state political party in 2019
Aerial footage of the remote bush commune shows several dwellings scattered among the trees.
There are no driveways and no fences to separate one home from the next. Cars park haphazardly wherever their drivers can find space.
The community relies on a water tank at the centre of the property and it’s understood they pool resources wherever possible.
‘They’re like a family,’ one local told Daily Mail Australia. ‘They’re all grieving so much right now.’
The commune is just 35 minutes’ drive from the hustle and bustle of Byron Bay central – but for locals, it feels a world away.
The 20-home commune has existed for 30 years and sits on 40ha of farmland just 30 minutes drive from Byron Bay
Police are investigating whether a candle was left burning inside the home overnight (pictured, investigators at the scene)
While Byron Bay has been gentrified and flooded with holidaymakers and celebrities, Goonengerry and similar tiny towns nearby still consider themselves ‘locals only’.
Residents embrace alternate ways of living and, put simply, ‘enjoy a simple life’.
Those living within the commune were all together the moment the twins’ father realised smoke was billowing from the room.
They were still there, shocked and confused, as emergency services arrived and tried to save the girls. A woman was also treated for shock at the scene.
Neighbours dropped off flowers to the grieving family as the tightknit community mourns
The home is within a ‘multiple occupancy’ community down this street, 30km west of Byron Bay (pictured, police at the scene)
Another woman fought back tears on Sunday as she delivered a bouquet of flowers, leaving them in the letter box.
A hand written note was left on one of the bouquets reading: ‘Mourning with you.’
Byron Shire deputy mayor Sarah Ndiaye said locals, especially people living in these types of hinterland communities, were particularly tightknit.
‘The loss will be felt by the entire community,’ she said.
Detectives will work with fire investigators, who remain on the scene, to determine the exact cause of the blaze.
There was little damage to the home itself, but it’s believed the toxic fumes from the smoke caused the twin’s death.
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