Wellington hostel fire: Three victims of Loafers Lodge blaze named

6:33 pm on 23 May 2023
A drone being used by emergency services to inspect the Loafers Lodge hostel on Tuesday afternoon following the tragic fire. 16/5/23

A drone hovers around Loafers Lodge. Photo: RNZ/ Angus Dreaver

Police have released the names of three men who died in the Loafers Lodge fire in Newtown last week.

The blaze ripped through the hostel in the early hours of last Tuesday morning.

Between last Thursday and the weekend police removed five bodies from the site but are yet to confirm a final death toll.

A man was arrested last week and charged with two counts of arson - one in relation to a couch fire on the third floor of the hostel on the Monday night before the major fire and the second in relation to the blaze set on the building itself.

The first victim named this evening was Michael Wahrlich, 67, of Wellington.

Earlier today Councillor Tamantha Paul said it was heartbreaking a well-known identity in the city, 'Mike the Juggler', had died in the fire.

She said his performances had brightened up the day for many who saw him in the central city in the last 30 years.

The Wahrlich family has released a statement through the police: "The family was devastated to hear that Michael's life was taken in this terrible tragedy.

"He always enjoyed entertaining the people of Wellington and will be sadly missed by the family and all who knew him."

The second victim was Melvin Joseph Parun, who was 68.

Other media have reported he was the brother of tennis player Onny Parun who was a prominent New Zealand player in the 1970s.

The third man named was Peter Glenn O'Sullivan, age 64.

All families requested privacy, police said in their statement.

Police offered their condolences to the whānau and friends of all three men.

Scene examination continues

The scene examination at Loafers Lodge has continued today, Acting Wellington District Commander Dion Bennett said.

"Police are making good progress covering ground in the building, but it is methodical and deliberate and will take time."

The northbound lane of Adelaide Road remained closed so that police could carry out some critical work at the scene.

Three victims had been formally identified, while the formal identification process was continuing for two others, Bennett said.

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