A NSW coroner has recommended bravery awards for neighbours, firefighters and police who risked their lives trying to save three children from a raging house fire in the Hunter Valley.
Coroner Hugh Donnelly has decided not to hold an inquest into the deaths of five-year-old twins Matylda and Scarlett Rinkin and their 11-year-old brother Blake Atkins when their Singleton home went up in flames in June 2019.
Their mother, Kara Atkins, and eight-year-old sister Bayley were pulled by neighbours from the fire and survived after being hospitalised.
“The house fire was an extremely traumatic event,” Mr Donnelly said in a statement on Friday.
“The loss of the lives of the three children was a devastating tragedy for their mother, fathers, family, relatives, friends and the community.”
But he said a fire inquiry was unnecessary after assessing all the evidence gathered by the police and a detailed fire investigation report. On the balance of probabilities the fire started in a corner of the living room and its cause was accidental.
The coroner also decided not to hold an inquest for the children who died because of the conclusions about the fire and their medical reports.
“Inquests will not take this matter any further,” he said.
But he added that the effort and risks taken by the members of the community to save the children when the fire was raging were “truly extraordinary”.
“I have recommended that the bravery of the neighbours, members of Fire and Rescue NSW and members of the NSW Police Force should be formally recognised.
“These people responded speedily and put their lives on the line when the fire was at its worst and the building was collapsing.”
Mr Donnelly also recommended that other immediate responders such as the Ambulance Service of NSW and the medical professionals at Singleton Hospital should be formally recognised.
Singleton Mayor Sue Moore said in the fire’s aftermath that the community would be changed forever by the tragedy.
“The situation confronting those who responded to the fire … is hard for anyone to imagine, and I pay tribute to the heroism of the neighbours who were on the scene in the first instance and the emergency services who responded,” she said.
One neighbour recounted pulling Ms Atkins and her surviving daughter from the burning home.
“[I] tried so hard to go back in but the fire was out of control,” she wrote on Facebook at the time.
“I’m so sorry you beautiful kids, I’m so sorry.”