Twin girls who tragically died in a Byron Bay house fire, believed to have been started by a candle left burning near to their room, have been pictured.
Ophelia and Tarrow, both 4, are understood to have been killed by smoke inhalation after the fire erupted at the Goonengerry residence, west of the coastal town on Sunday morning.
The tragedy was discovered when the girls’ father, James Wright, and his girlfriend checked on the children and found them unresponsive, with smoke billowing from the property, about 4am.
The girls had been visiting their father – who was reportedly outside at a bonfire when the blaze began – as part of shared parenting arrangements over the weekend.
Harrowing calls were made to triple-zero begging for help – but it was too late to save them.
The home was among 19 properties dotted around the isolated 40 ha commune in the Byron Bay hinterland in northern NSW.
Ophelia and Tarrow (pictured with their mother) are understood to have died from smoke inhalation after a fire at their Byron Bay house
Residents who choose to live off-grid at the Nunkeri Multi Occupancy commune consider each other family, and were enjoying a collective bonfire well into the early hours of Sunday morning when tragedy struck
A member of the public reacts while holding a bouquet of flowers outside the home where 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
‘Hurry, the babies can’t breathe,’ the girlfriend told the operator on the end of the line. Paramedics arrived shortly after, but neither little girl could be revived.
A lawyer acting for the girls’ mother, Akira Garton, has asked detectives investigating the tragedy to look into why the girls had been left unattended in the house.
Daily Mail Australia does not suggest any wrongdoing on the part of the girl’s father.
‘He was on the floor on his knees, he was crying no no, he was inconsolable,’ a woman from the commune said.
‘Our hearts are broken for him. Jimmy loved his girls, he took them everywhere with him.’
Aerial footage of the remote bush commune shows several dwellings scattered among the trees.
There are no driveways, 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 20-home commune has existed for 30 years and sits on 40ha of farmland just 30 minutes’ drive from Byron Bay
Neighbours dropped off flowers to the grieving family
Four-year-old twin sisters have both died from smoke inhalation after their home caught fire overnight. The home is within a ‘multiple occupancy’ community down this street, 30km west of Byron Bay
The commune is just 35 minutes’ drive from the hustle and bustle of Byron Bay central – but for locals, it feels a world away.
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.
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.’
Horrified neighbours arrived at the home later on Sunday to drop bouquets of flowers to the family
The girls’ father is crushed by the twins’ deaths and ‘in a bad state’.
‘He blames himself. He’s really shaken up,’ one neighbour said.
Some of the first responders were then forced to break the tragic news to the girls’ mother, who was not at the home at the time.
‘They’re shocked, gutted, grieving. (They have) no words,’ another friend said.
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.
Police remain on the scene as they investigate the cause of the blaze
‘The people at the scene obviously went in to check and saw what they saw and police were called,’ Tweed-Byron Police District commander Superintendent Dave Roptell said.
‘It’s unbelievably devastating to see… anyone die in these circumstances. But two four-year-old females, it’s just a tragic set of circumstances.’
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.
Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Police are investigating whether a candle was left burning inside the home overnight
There are no driveways, no fences to separate one home from the next. Cars park haphazardly wherever their drivers can find space that’s out of the way
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk