Third child escaped killer fire

A NINE-year-old managed to escape from the blazing caravan which claimed the lives of his two brothers at West Meadows travellers' site in Ipswich, it emerged today.

A NINE-year-old managed to escape from the blazing caravan which claimed the lives of his two brothers at West Meadows travellers' site in Ipswich, it emerged today.

Eleven-year-old Rodney Smith and his brother Ben, aged three, were killed in the fire which tore through their home late last Saturday night.

However a county source today said another brother managed to get out of the caravan before smoke and flames completely engulfed it. And it is believed he escaped uninjured.

A clearer picture of what happened on the night was revealed by the source who said travellers at the site desperately tried in vain to get to Rodney and Ben, but were beaten back by the flames.

Despite their rescue attempts there was nothing that could be done to save the boys as the fire spread rapidly through the 20ft caravan. By the time firefighters and ambulance crews arrived, it was too late for them to help Rodney and Ben.

Specially trained investigators are thought to be waiting to speak to the surviving brother who is being cared for by his parents, to get a clearer picture of what happened.

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It is believed the investigation currently centres around a heater which was in the caravan.

At the time of the fire one of the parents is believed to have been at West Meadows, while the other is thought to have been off site. The boys' grandparents also live nearby.

Meanwhile distraught staff and students at the Ipswich school which Rodney attended today paid an emotional tribute to him.

Staff at Whitehouse Junior School broke the news of the death of year six pupil to his fellow students during an assembly held in his memory.

Anna Hennell-James, headteacher at the Marlow Road school, said: "Rodney was a lively, fun-loving boy, who had many friends in his class and across the school.

"He joined the school in Year 3 and participated in school life fully from his first day.

"He particularly enjoyed practical work, and loved making things. This year he was very proud of making gas masks and air raid shelters as part of the Year 6 work on the Second World War."

Post mortems were due to be carried out on the pair yesterday .

The boys' deaths shocked the tight-knit traveller community at West Meadows and have saddened Rodney's classmates at Whitehouse Junior School.

Ms Hennell-James said: "Rodney loved school, and was always here when his family weren't away travelling.

"At the end of last term Rodney received a gold attendance award, for 100 per cent attendance and punctuality over the spring term.

"Rodney had a cheeky sense of humour, and he liked to joke with staff and his friends.

"He loved to make people laugh and he will be sadly missed by staff and pupils alike. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very sad time."

Counsellors have been offering assistance to staff and students at the school in the wake of the boys' death.

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