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Survivor recalls deadly Hamilton blaze

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 13/02/2017

A Hamilton man has described the terrifying moments of escaping a house fire that killed three others following an inner city party more than two years ago.

Toni Maree Johnston, 23, Jake Hayes, 19, and Connor Swetman, 17, all died in the inferno that gutted the Collingwood Street villa on November 15, 2014.

Baily Reid was sleeping in the same room as Mr Hayes and Mr Swetman when the fire broke out downstairs.

Mr Reid who was giving evidence at a coronial inquest into the tragedy on Monday, said they had been smoking marijuana before they all went to sleep.

"At 4.30am I heard yelling outside - a whole heap of people screaming and shouting out names.

"I then saw the glow and told them: 'There is a fire and Jake said it will be all right.'

"We went to the hallway door but a heap of smoke came into the bedroom. I went straight back to the other door, wrapped a jersey around my hand and smashed the window.

"The glass shattered and I cut my finger and burnt three others as I climbed out. I ran onto the road where I vomited because of the smoke in my lungs.

"I didn't know where Jake and Connor were as I didn't see them after I escaped," Mr Reid said.

A post-mortem found all three victims died from smoke inhalation.

Earlier on Monday the inquest was told they had been partying with drugs and alcohol and the house did not have working smoke alarms.

More than 30 people had been at the party earlier and a couple of fights broke out between party goers. Police were called but the fights had finished.

A toxicology report later revealed both he and Mr Swetman had smoked cannabis and taken Class C party pills.

Mr Hayes and Ms Johnston were also so drunk that they would have been three to four times over the legal driving limit.

A post-mortem examination concluded all three victims had died as a result of smoke inhalation.

There bodies were so badly burned that dental records were required to identify each person.

Uncertainty remains over the fire, which started on the couch in the villa's living room.

No-one has ever been charged.

The inquest is expected to take three days.

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