Boxing Day dawns on fire nightmare
THE chilling screams of little girls and a distraught father in a Tewantin street on Boxing Day will become the "stuff of nightmares".
By the time neighbours heard the cries for help about 3.30am, a three-bedroom colonial-style timber home in Jacaranda Place was engulfed in flames.
Celebrity chef Matt Golinski, who is in a critical but stable condition in Royal Brisbane Hospital, was severely burned escaping from the fire which is believed to have claimed the lives of his wife Rachel and their three young daughters.
The 39-year-old was taken to Noosa Hospital in a critical condition.
Once stabilised, he went to Nambour hospital and was then airlifted to the Royal Brisbane Hospital.
Neighbour Claire Hoare was among the first to wake to hear the blaze about 3.30am.
"I woke up to what sounded like a dog howling, screaming, banging and crashing sounds," she said.
"As I got out of bed, I heard a man yell 'help me'.
"We raced outside. It was just an orange sky.
"The house is timber and was already engulfed in flames. I watched it fall apart in 10 minutes."
Neighbour Gary Siljac, who lives across the street, said he had heard the Golinskis enjoying a Christmas party with family and friends well into the evening.
He said he was haunted by the feeling of helplessness.
"You could hear them echoing all over the neighbourhood on Christmas Day. They were having a great time over there," he said.
"This morning the dogs were going berserk.
"There was a lot of commotion and a lot of screaming.
"And then there was an explosion which rattled the house.
"It'll be the stuff of nightmares.
"I grabbed the Toyota van and when I jumped in to move it, the heat off the house was full on.
"I ran back up to try to look in the house to see anybody but everything was lit up and the windows were starting to pop out.
"We spotted Matt on the ground, he was severely burnt and screaming, worried about his family.
"It was pretty full on. We started hosing him down with cold water to ease the pain. We tried to comfort him for a bit.
"Then I saw the gas bottles between the garage and the house so I ran around to all the neighbours and told them to get inside.
"We picked Matt up and carried him down the driveway.
"His feet were red raw and then the rest of his skin looked like a bad peeling.
"He was black from being scorched and he was in pain.
"He tried to save his family.
"I just hope he pulls through, he's got a lot of deal with.
"He's got his own fight and then all of this to deal with too."
Russell McCart jumped the back fence of his property to try to help the Golinskis when he woke and saw flames from their windows.
But he said the fire was already too hot to go inside.
He described seeing Mr Golinski's skin peeling and the hair on his body singed.
"It was surreal," he said.
"I had heard the kids playing in the swimming pool and on the trampoline over the fence all day."
Friends and family were distraught as they arrived to see emergency services vehicles near the house, asking if "Matt and Rachel" were okay.
Others arrived with flowers to lay near the scene of the fire.
Police Superintendent Terry Borland told media outside the home that police officers were connecting neighbours and families to support networks equipped to deal with tragedy.
He said police and fire investigators would remove the four bodies from the destroyed home and look for the cause of the fire.
"When the building is safe we can go in and commence our investigations to try to piece together what has gone on in this tragic circumstance here," he said.
"If there's anything there to benefit in the future, to limit these sorts of events, then we'll certainly look for those answers."
Queensland Fire and Rescue Service inspector Lloyd Johnston said firefighters from Noosa, Tewantin and Cooroy attended the fire.
He said it was engulfed in fire when they arrived and firefighters could not conduct an internal search and rescue mission.
"It was fairly fruitless at that time because the house was totally involved," he said.
"It's a family crisis and it is Christmas. It's an absolute tragedy that this has occurred at this time of the year.
"It's a tragedy at any time of the year but at Christmas it really hits home."