18 Aug 2014

Inquest into fatal Brisbane fire starts

7:57 pm on 18 August 2014

A man who lost 11 members of his extended family in a house fire in Brisbane can not remember if a smoke alarm which was switched off was ever turned back on.

Treicee Taufa, right, is comforted at the scene of a house fire which claimed the life of her daughter, Adele Taufa, and 10 others.

Treicee Taufa, right, is comforted at the scene of a house fire which claimed the life of her daughter, Adele Taufa, and 10 others. Photo: AFP

Tau Taufa's wife, daughter and three granddaughters were among those who perished in the blaze at Slacks Creek on 24 August, 2011.

Reports from The Australian newspaper say Tongan-born Tau Taufa married his wife in New Zealand in the 1970s before they moved to Brisbane in 1980.

He was one of three men who survived.

Three women, four teenagers and four children under the age of 10 died in the fire, which has been described as Australia's worst house fire.

The residents were Tongan and Samoan family members.

Giving evidence at a coronial inquest in Brisbane, Mr Taufa said his family had lived in the two-storey house since 1988, the ABC reported.

He said he remembered a smoke alarm sounding once in the 1990s and someone turned it off to get rid of the noise but he could not remember if it was turned on again.

Mr Taufa told the inquest he tried to put out the fire and he called out to those inside the house but did not hear them.

Birthday celebrations

Mark Matauaina, also known as Misi, told the hearing it was his birthday the night the fire broke out and he had returned home after celebrating.

He said he was sleeping in a bedroom with Anna Maria Taufa and their two children had been in the living room with their grandmother.

"I ran down the hallway - all I could see was smoke coming up through the floor in the kitchen," he said, recalling the night of the fire.

"Anna Maria also left the bedroom but the smoke was thick and I lost her - it was hard to breathe."

He said he jumped out of the window.

"It was too late to do anything," he said.

He said he never heard a fire alarm go off.

Jeremiah Lale, who lost his wife and his five children, said he and his family had only been living at house for a few weeks before the fire began, the ABC reported.

Counsel assisting the coroner Simon Hamlyn-Harris told the inquest this morning there was no suggestion of foul play and a major factor in the deaths was the speed at which the blaze took hold.

Coroner James McDougall will consider whether current laws governing the installation of smoke alarms in all new properties should be extended to include older properties as a condition of their sale.

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