Northern Ireland

Woman dies in west Belfast house blaze

Media captionThe fire broke out at a house in Lenadoon Avenue

The family of a woman who died in a house fire in west Belfast on Wednesday night tried desperately to save her.

The victim has been named locally as Patricia Hetherington, who was in her 40s.

She was trapped upstairs in the blazing Lenadoon Avenue home as her sons and neighbours struggled to help her.

One neighbour said he was able to get into the house but was beaten back by the flames and the smoke.

"I ran across and kicked the door in and ran upstairs, but the heat put me back down," he said.

"The black smoke and the heat just bellowed between the bedrooms.

"There was about three or four of us in the house trying to get up.

"Then her sons came back and that was it, the windows blew through and the fire brigade came."

An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the fire. Alan Hamill of the Fire and Rescue Service says crews faced very "punishing" conditions.

He said when crews arrived the upstairs windows had been blown out by the force of the flames.

"The first crews were faced with a very severe fire in the first floor and attic area of a semi-detached house," he said.

Smoke alarms

"It became apparent very quickly that there was the possibility that someone was still inside the property.

"There was severe heat and the flames were licking out through both windows and certainly it was very, very heavily smoke logged."

It is not yet known if the property was fitted with smoke alarms.

The police and fire service are trying to establish what caused the blaze.