Neighbours tell of failed bid to rescue family from flat inferno

THREE people killed in a house fire at the weekend have been identified as an elderly couple and their son.

James Robertson, 71, his wife Mary, known as May, 73, and their son Paul, 37, died after a blaze at a block of flats in Maryhill, Glasgow.

Fire crews and four appliances from Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service were called to the fifth-floor flat on Acre Road just after 11:30pm on Friday.

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Firefighters entered the building with breathing apparatus and used a hose-reel jet to put out the blaze, but the three were suffering from "severe" smoke inhalation.

They received first aid, but were confirmed dead at the scene.

Neighbours said they tried to break into the flat but were unable to get through the front door.

A family statement issued through Strathclyde Police said: "We are deeply saddened by what has happened. James, May and Paul will be sorely missed. At this time, we request that our privacy be respected as we begin to come to terms with our sad loss."

One neighbour said: "I was woken up about 11:30pm by sounds of banging. A group of us went up to the flat and tried to smash the door down, but we just couldn't get it to move; it was locked with three dead bolts, so there was no way we were getting it open.

"I looked through the letter-box and there was just thick black smoke."

A second neighbour said: "They were a nice family, but very quiet and kept to themselves."

Families in the floors above the flat were evacuated but were allowed back on Saturday morning.

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The blaze is the latest in the Strathclyde force area which saw seven deaths over the Christmas period. More than 60 people also suffered from smoke inhalation and other injuries from the series of blazes.

Other deaths from fires over the holiday period made it the worst in a decade.

Earlier this month, Scotland's leading firefighter said a ten-day period over Christmas had seen an "unprecedented level of tragedy" with deaths and hundreds of homes destroyed by fire.

Brian Sweeney, the service's chief officer, said they had dealt with the highest number of incidents for ten years, with 68 injuries and 250 homes destroyed.

A joint investigation into the latest fire, involving police and the fire service, continues but the blaze was not believed to be suspicious. A report will be submitted to the procurator-fiscal.

Firefighters repeated their call for householders to make sure they have working smoke alarms and an escape plan.