Passerby saves man at house fire that killed two in Auckland's Manurewa

1:33 pm on 13 May 2024

The parents of the sole survivor of a fatal house fire in Auckland say they are devastated by the tragedy that killed their son's two friends.

Two people died and a third was taken to Middlemore Hospital with serious injuries after fire in Manurewa.

Firefighters found the home on Freshney Place well ablaze about 7am on Monday. Police said an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the fire, and it would work with fire investigators.

House fire in Hillpark in Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Melanie Earley

The father of one of those living at the property broke down in tears as he spoke to journalists outside the house.

He said one of his sons and his two mates were in the house at the time of the fire.

His son managed to escape but was badly burned, he said. He was expected to recover although he would need plastic surgery.

"I don't know what to say ...I'm waiting for other family to arrive. We still don't know what's actually happened," he said through his tears.

The father said his mother and his 91-year-old grandmother usually lived at the house along with the three others.

When he got the first phone call about the fire around 7am he didn't know who was in the house.

It later emerged his mum and grandmother were staying at his sister's place in Pukekohe.

He and his wife were at the house about 8pm last night and everything seemed fine.

The man's wife said she had just been at the hospital with her son who had severe burns.

He was awake, "with it", and knew what had happened to his friends.

The full extent of his injuries were not yet known, she said.

The pair said the two who had died were "lovely boys" who saw the "glass half full".

Jonathan Asafo, who lives two minutes from the fire scene, was on his way to drop off his son in daycare.

"And as I drove past, I saw the whole house on fire and then I quickly reversed back and seeing as no one was on the road and no one knew the house was on fire, I quickly ... drove up the driveway and I started tooting my horn and then calling, running around for any response."

He saw a truck in the driveway, and with flames coming out of the house he ran to the neighbour's house and alerted them.

A woman and four children emerged from that house.

By the time he returned a survivor had made it onto the back lawn. He had been sleeping downstairs, Asafo said, but he feared for his two friends who had been sleeping upstairs.

The young man was in shock, Asafo said, and the skin had burnt off his hands.

Jonathan Asafo came across a house ablaze in the Auckland suburb of Hillpark.

Fire hero Jonathan Asafo. Photo: RNZ/Marika Khabazi

He escaped the fire after hearing Asafo's horn.

"He quickly went through the back door ...[he was] fully in shock."

By the time Asafo was talking to him firefighters had arrived.

Asafo did not know anyone living at the house.

"It's just sad that we weren't able to do anything more to rescue the other two but I guess being able to help one victim is better than [nothing]."

Hillpark fatal house fire

The scene of the fatal house fire. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

He was also worried for his three-year-old who was in the car in the driveway so moved his car away from the property.

Another neighbour, Elenoa Salegagoai, whose children were sleeping shouted to them to get up and leave the once she spotted the flames out the window.

She said two elderly women usually lived at the property.

"That's so lucky they're not there."

She also saw a distraught survivor and didn't realise at the time that two others were still inside the house.

A Fire and Emergency spokesperson said five crews and one command unit were sent to the fire.

Around 20 firefighters are at the scene.

The wooden two-storey home's windows have broken due to the force of the fire.

Neighbour Lee Veo said she heard banging and glass breaking as the fire took hold.

"It sounded like someone was bashing down walls, breaking glass ... so I looked out the window and the flames were really tall."

Fatal house fire in Hillpark in Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Melanie Earley

Now she was waiting to find out the identity of the victims.

Auckland councillor Daniel Newman, who has dealt with the family previously on stormwater issues, said the deaths were devastating.

He said the family were engaged members of the community.

Fatal house fire in Hillpark in Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Melanie Earley

Three ambulances and a rapid response vehicle attended.

Police and FENZ would remain at the property while a scene examination was completed.