Wednesday, 8 Feb 2023

Tragedy as teen girl with ‘heart of gold’ dies in flat fire

North Shields: Police cordon area after girl dies in a flat fire

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A teenage girl with a “heart of gold” was tragically killed in a flat fire earlier this week.

Her body was found following the blaze, which broke out at around 3.30am on Monday, January 16.

While police say formal identification has yet to take place, they believe it to be 18-year-old Leah Casson.

Three members of her family were hurt in the fire on Vicarage Street, in North Shields, with two of them critically injured, reports Chronicle Live.

Northumbria Police confirmed yesterday that the fire is being treated as a suspected arson attack, and detectives have today appealed for witnesses.

A devastated family friend has paid tribute to Leah, as she launches a fundraising drive to help them through their ordeal.

Kerry Riches, from Wallsend, North Tyneside, has set-up a page on the online donation site GoFundMe.

The 43-year-old wrote on it: “As a result of this terrible incident a young talented girl with a heart of gold has lost her life and the other members of the family were hospitalised.

“We need our community to pull together to give Leah the send off she deserves and get the family back into accommodation and help with furnishings, clothing etc.”

Emergency services were called to Vicarage Street, just off Waterville Road, at 3.28am, on Monday.

At least five fire engines attended the scene, as well as police, paramedics and staff from Northern Gas Networks and Northern Powergrid.

This morning investigations were continuing at the scene where the street is cordoned off and a white tent remains outside the property.

Police said a number of residents have been evacuated due to structural safety concerns and they have been given alternative accommodation.

A cordon is in place and officers are carrying out door to door enquiries.

Det Insp Louise Jenkins, the Senior Investigating Officer on the case said: “This is an absolutely tragic incident which has resulted in the death of a woman, left three other people seriously injured and a number of neighbours have been affected.

“We are determined to establish exactly what happened in those moments leading up to the fire, and have been working around the clock with the support of our partners from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, since we first received their call for assistance.

“While enquiries are at an early stage, we are not ruling anything out and are currently treating the incident as suspected arson.

“We have specialist investigators on the case who will be carrying out detailed forensic enquiries, as well as reviewing CCTV and working with residents to establish if anyone might have seen what happened in the moments prior to the fire.

“We are also asking for anyone else who might have information to come forward and share what they know – any detail, no matter small might be just what we are looking for.”

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s area manager, Phil Clark, said: “We can confirm that five crews from across Tyne and Wear and our Aerial Ladder Platform (ALP) were on the scene to extinguish this fire in a matter of minutes.

“Three people had already self-rescued from the property upon our arrival and our crews immediately began to try and get the fire under control to prevent it from spreading to nearby properties.

“Our crews recovered a fourth person from the building once the fire was extinguished but sadly she was pronounced dead at the scene.

“We are supporting our colleagues at Northumbria Police with their investigation and the thoughts of everyone at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service are with the friends and family of those involved, and the wider community in North Shields.

“Our crews will remain in the area in the coming days and we want to thank those firefighters who responded for their professionalism.

“We would echo the appeal from Northumbria Police for anyone with information about the circumstances around this incident to get in touch.”

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call Northumbria Police on 101 quoting log NP-20230116-0067.

To donate to the fundraising page, click here. 

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