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Ilfracombe mum's agony after Prestatyn flat fire kills her family

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: December 06, 2012

By Joel Cooper

  • FAREWELL: Liam Timbrell who died with his son Charlie, after a fire at his flat in Prestatyn.

  • LOST GRANDSON: Charlie Timbrell, aged 15 months.

  • GRIEVING: Stephanie Watson with the cards and press cuttings that followed the fire, and a portrait of five of her children, with Liam pictured closest to her. Picture: Mike Southon. Ref: BNMS20121129C-007_C

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AN ILFRACOMBE cafe owner who lost her son and only grandson in a fire has spoken of her pain and devastation.

Stephanie Watson's 23-year-old son Liam Timbrell and 15-month-old grandson Charlie Timbrell were killed after fire ravaged their flat on a street called Maes y Groes in Prestatyn, Wales, on October 19.

Liam's fiancee Lee-Anna Shiers, 20, also died in the blaze along with her niece Skye Allen, 2, and her nephew Bailey Allen, 4.

Stephanie, 44, who has owned the Rainbow Corner Cafe on Ilfracombe High Street since 2007, said the incident had forced her to rebuild her life and she praised her regular customers for their love and support.

Stephanie said she still remembers the night of the fire very clearly.

She said: "The fire happened around 10pm but my other son Andrew Watson, Liam's brother, called me around 11.30pm.

"He said there had been a fire at Liam's flat but that Liam was in hospital.

"We got in the car and rushed straight there."

Liam's fiancee Lee-Anna and her niece Skye and nephew Bailey were pronounced dead at the scene.

Liam was taken to Whiston Hospital in Liverpool while one-year-old Charlie was taken to Alder Hey Children's Hospital, also in Liverpool.

Stephanie said: "We drove straight to Whiston Hospital to see Liam.

"He was heavily sedated and we could see burns on his face.

"However, most of the damage was on his back, shoulders, legs, feet and arms.

"He had a tiny hand print shaped burn on his chest which we think was Charlie's."

The next day Stephanie received a call from Alder Hey Hospital saying that her grandson Charlie's condition was deteriorating.

With Liam in a stable state the family went to Charlie's bedside.

Stephanie said: "I watched him get worse by the minute.

"His oxygen levels dropped and his stomach turned black, it was so hard.

"They turned off his life support machines at 4.11pm on Sunday, October 21 and he died one minute later.

"I was absolutely devastated, he was my only grandson."

Less than 20 minutes after Charlie's death, Stephanie received a call from Whiston hospital to say that Liam was also worsening.

She said: "I gave Charlie one final cuddle before heading straight to Liam's bedside.

"The doctors told us he needed something called ECMO treatment which replaces oxygen in the blood and removes carbon dioxide.

"He was transferred to the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester which specialises in this treatment.

"Throughout this time I'd only had about six hours' sleep in three days."

Initially Liam responded well to the ECMO treatment and even regained consciousness.

Stephanie said: "He couldn't speak but he was mouthing words to us. I asked him if he knew how much I loved him and he tried to tell me he loved me too.

"At the time the doctors said he had an 80 per cent chance of survival and he was doing so well that they stopped his ECMO treatment.

"He did very well for the first 24 hours but after that he went downhill rapidly.

"He had another operation but it was too much for his heart. He had more internal injuries than they had realised."

Liam's stomach, intestines, kidneys and liver had been badly damaged and doctors gave him a five per cent chance of survival.

Stephanie said: "They told us to call anyone who wanted to be by his side in the final moments.

"The following day, November 5, we went into his room at 9.15am. At 9.20am I ruffled Liam's hair and told him that if he wanted to be with his family I understood.

"About 30 seconds later he bled out internally and died at 9.24am. I think he'd been hanging on for us.

"I felt a mixture of relief and total devastation."

The funerals of Liam, Lee-Anna, Charlie, Skye and Bailey took place at the Colwyn Bay crematorium on November 14 and were followed by a memorial service at Prestatyn Parish Church the following day.

Stephanie said: "We kept the funeral to family and friends but hundreds of people lined the streets of Prestatyn.

"The memorial service was attended by more than 300 people including news crews from around the country."

Stephanie closed the Rainbow Corner Cafe for two weeks until November 19 when she took the decision to reopen.

She said: "I needed to keep myself busy and the cafe is also my only income stream.

"Our regular customers have been absolutely fantastic, I don't know how I'd have coped without them."

Stephanie is trying to raise money for memorial benches to be sited in Prestatyn and Ilfracombe facing the sea where Liam, Lee-Anna and Charlie's ashes will be scattered.

She has set up a charity account at Barclay's bank called the Pot Of Gold.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so at the Rainbow Corner Cafe or Ilfracombe's Indoor Market.

Melanie Jane Smith, 43, of Prestatyn, has been charged with the murder of the five people who died in the fire.

She is due to appear in court in April 2013.

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