Man dies in South Otago house fire

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 12:57 22/06/2014
fatal fire south otago
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THIS MORNING: The scene of a fatal house fire in South Otago where a 48-year-old man died.

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A man's partner smashed a window to try and save him from a burning South Otago house. Then she could only watch on, helpless.

Flames had forced the woman to abandon her rescue attempts.

Thomas Huiateroa, 48, the love of her life, perished inside. 

This morning, the tight-knit Inch Clutha community was in shock at the events that unfolded about 9pm, yesterday. Police said they did not believe the fire was suspicious and they were working to establish how it started. Investigators were at the scene this morning.

A friend who lives next door said she jumped in her car and drove to the house when she saw the fire.

"I woke him up and spoke to him through the window, but I had to stand back the heat was so intense,'' she said.

''I said you need to get out, the house is on fire.''

He tried to make his way up the hallway, which was where police found him, she said.

Another friend of Huiateroa said there was little anyone could have done.

"He was supposed to come over to my [house] and he didn't turn up."

"We all watched it and couldn't do nothing."

The victim's partner normally lived with him but she was out at the time. 

"I saw the fire and I went over there. I actually smashed a window to try and get my partner out. There was too much smoke," she said through tears.

"I tired [to save him] but it wasn't good enough. It didn't bring my partner out.

"It's just pretty sad what's happened and he'll be sadly missed."  

The couple's dog and all their belongings were lost in the fire, the victim’s partner said.

"[He] was a lovely person. He was kind-hearted and just loved by everybody. He'd do anything for you."

Police said his death has been referred to the coroner.

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