By Nick Sinis
THE heroic actions of a neighbour helped save an elderly couple as he pulled them over a fence while a huge fire raged in their Inverloch home.
Earlier this month, almost 25 CFA firefighters responded to the house fire at Corsair Grove in Inverloch, where an elderly couple’s home was tragically destroyed.
At the time, the fire was believed to have been caused by a blocked flue connected to a wood heater.
As the fierce fire grew, the rear neighbours on Pier Road quickly sprang into action, calling emergency services as they tried to protect their own homes.
Andrew Paxton, whose family lives diagonally behind the home, rushed to his backyard as he noticed the huge flames and smoke billowing from the property.
“The smoke was unreal. I got the hose and went to the back corner and started hosing everything,” he told the Sentinel-Times.
“But after a while, up pokes the neighbour’s head and I said, ‘What are you doing! Get over the fence!’
“And then the next thing, his wife’s head pokes up.
“So, I jumped over the fence and I lifted the lady up onto a water tub and over the fence.
“And then I jumped onto the neighbour’s garden, because we were on an angle, and I just said to her to fall into my arms, as she was half over the fence.
“And then by that time, the husband was already up, and I said jump into my arms and I’ll catch you.”
Mr Paxton then led the couple to the neighbour’s home, who were shocked they had managed to get out in time.
“They took them inside and my wife went in there and I just went back around again to get the hose,” he said.
“I just couldn’t believe it when they poked their heads up, I just happened to be in the back garden.
“But I just did what everybody would do in that circumstance.”
The rear neighbour, Trudie Horskins and family, were quick to care for couple as they came over the fence, looking after them until paramedics arrived.
“It was pretty surreal. We went to bed very early because we’re up very early usually,” she said.
“And about half an hour later I woke to the smell of smoke.
“We’ve got a wood fire heater and I thought, that’s weird because I didn’t put any more logs on.
“I got straight up and looked out my back kitchen window and just saw this big wall of flames.
“It was the most surreal, scary thing I’ve ever seen in my life; the flames were so high.
“My instant reaction was if anyone’s in the house, there’s no way known they’ve survived.”
Trudie said she immediately woke her family up and contacted Triple Zero.
“My husband straight away went down to the back fence with a garden hose and hosed down the fence, to try keep the fire from jumping over into our yard,” she said.
“I just kept going in and out as I was worried about my husband, and then I could hear yelling.
“I went to the backdoor and there was Andrew in the middle of our backyard, with the elderly couple on each arm.
“It was something out of a movie, this man just emerged, he managed to pull them over our back fence.”
The neighbours then tried as much as they could to comfort the couple.
“We noticed all her hair was singed and the side of her face was really red, the language barrier was hard as they are Greek,” she said.
“We put wet towels all over them and looked after them.
“Andrew’s wife came in and she had the paramedics on the phone and was relaying what they wanted us to do.
“We just had to make sure her face was constantly wet until they arrived.”
As paramedics and emergency services turned up, Trudie reflected on how very lucky the couple was to survive and what truly matters in life.
“They were looked after and loved by us with the help of the neighbours, they were convinced to go Dandenong Hospital and she’s got family down there,” she said.
“The most beautiful thing is they were holding hands as they walked out of the house.
“It made me cry.
“They’ve got one another, the house can be replaced but they’re together.
“It was really lucky Andrew had spotted them and got them over the back fence, it’s just incredible.”