A Northern Ireland community is in mourning after a 12-year-old schoolgirl was killed in a house fire. Brooke Reid died after a fire broke out at her County Antrim home on Wednesday night.
Emergency crews were called to the Ballykeel area of Ballymena just before 6pm on Wednesday following reports of a fire and engaged in a rescue operation. Sadly, Brooke's body was recovered shortly afterwards.
Speaking to Ballymena Daily, Reid's heartbroken mother Martha McMaster said that someone had heard her daughter's cries for help and attempted to "kick the door in" but was unsuccessful. McMaster added that she had previously lost another of her children: “I am totally devastated, I have already buried a child and now I will have to bury another one," she told the outlet.
The tragedy has prompted an outpouring of condolences and prayers, with TUV councillor Matthew Armstrong calling the incident "unimaginable and heartbreaking".
"My thoughts and prayers go out to them. As a father myself, it's just unspeakable," he said. "Sometimes there's just very few words to describe something as horrific as that."
In a statement, the principal of Reid's school, Dunclug College, expressed her "heartfelt sympathies" to the grieving family.
A message from our Principal Mrs Wilson conveying our heartfelt sympathies to the family circle of Brooke Reid at this...Posted by Dunclug College, Ballymena, N. Ireland on Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Principal Ruth Wilson said: "The staff and pupils of Dunclug College record deep sorrow on the tragic death of their beloved pupil, Brooke Reid, in Year 9, and send support and prayers to her grieving parents and family circle. 'Suffer the little ones to come unto me'."
The PSNI confirmed that they had received a report of the fire at around 5:50pm on Wednesday, with Chief Inspector William Calderwood revealing that "tragically, the girl died at the scene".
He added: "A man who was in the house was taken to hospital for treatment.
"The cause of the fire has not yet been determined and will be subject to investigation, in liaison with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service."
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said they were called to the incident in Staffa Drive at 5.46pm on Wednesday evening:
"Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the house, extinguished the fire and recovered the body of a 12 year old girl.
"The cause of the fire is under investigation.
"NIFRS tenders its sympathies to the family of this young girl on their tragic loss."
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help raise money for the family to cover funeral expenses. "Its no secret that this family have gone through so much and no parent this young should be losing another one of their beautiful babies," the page description reads. "I beg you all to dig deep and help raise some pennies so we can support Brookes family in these hard times."
At the time of writing, just over £4,000 has been raised.
The tragedy occurs on the same day as a man was found murdered at a flat in the same Ballykeel community. Two men, aged 29 and 33, have been arrested on suspicion of murder.
Speaking to the BBC, Reverend Martin McNeely from Ballykeel Presbyterian Church called Reid's death "tragic".
“People find it really hard to find the vocabulary to describe the depth of sorrow,” he said. “This is a community which has experienced a tragic murder this morning and now the tragic death of a much loved 12-year-old girl this evening."
Rev McNeely announced on social media that there would be a short vigil for Brooke on Thursday evening:
"Short vigil in memory of Brooke will be at the Orkney/Staffa junction Thursday 6pm. Minute silence and prayer. The family thank everyone for all the comfort and outpouring of love. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1 (Social distancing under the circumstances)."