Friday, August 5, 2011

FATAL FIRE. TWO CHINAMEN BURNED TO DEATH SERGEANT CLARKE INJURED,

At twenty minutes past three on May rth, a fire broke out in Greystreet in a bnilding owned by Mr Neumegen, pawnbroker, and occupied by Sam Kee, a Chinese laundryman, and four assistants. Sam Kee states that in company with the other inmates of the house he retired to bed at, 1130 o'clock last night, leaving no fires burning. Some time after he heard a sound of something falling, and jumping up, discovered that the place was on fire, and that the room was full of smoke. He shouted out at the top of his voice to awaken the others, but could not say whether they heard him or not. He put up the window and jumped from it to the roadway, a distance of about 20ft. He was too excited to see if the others escaped. The brigade were early on the scene, but were unable to save the laundry or the adjoining portion of the buildings which was occupied by Mr Hadfield,- cabinet maker, and which, with most of its contents, was destroyed.

Constable LanigaƟ was on the spot soon after the outbreak, and there was a strong body of police in attendance.After the fire had been got under about five o'clock, the police entered the building and discovered the bodies of two Chinamen named Willie Wah, 60, years o£ age, and Sing Hung, about 30 years of age,one in the front room and one in the back. To get the bodies out it was necessary to take them out of the front window and over the verandah. The first was got out without any trouble, and was lowered down by a rope. While the second was being taken over the verandah, on which Sergeant Clarke and Constables A. McDonald,were standing, it suddenly collapsed, and all fell to the ground. Sergeant Clarke, who fell underneath, struck the ground with his hip. The body fell on the Sergeant, and Constable Douthett fell head first on the body, wkile Constable Thompson, and half-a-dozen sheets of iron landed together on the heap below. When the men were picked up, it was found that Sergeant Clarke had been badly injured on the right leg, which he was unable to move. His head was also cut by a sheet of falling iron.He, was removed to the adjoining shop, where he was attended to by Dr. Lindsay, and was afterwards removed to his residence by Sergeant Walker and Constable Oliphant

During the progress of the fire, Miss Ada Hadfield was injured through jumping of thereof of the verandah. Her feet were slightly burned, and she also sustained a strain hurting her hack, though not seriously. Miss Hadfield was removed to the Hospital. There was no insurance on the furniture of either of the occupants of the building.

The .'building, the walls of which are left standing, was insured in the Nationallnsuranee Office for £500, and this sum was about the value of the structure. The origin of the fire remains a mystery. When the Ghinamen retired all lights were out and everything was safe. Mr Hadfield, who lost almost all his stock and furniture, is a considerable loser by the fire. Auckland Star, Volume XXIX, Issue 111, 12 May 1898, Page 5

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