Scam claim in wake of house fire

By Kristin Macfarlane -
Fire investigators pictured at work on the remains of the house that was destroyed by fire in Rotorua. Photo / APN
Fire investigators pictured at work on the remains of the house that was destroyed by fire in Rotorua. Photo / APN

The family of a teenager seriously injured in a Rotorua house fire are concerned people are ripping off local shops by collecting items, claiming they are for the family.

A family spokeswoman said the family had learned people were taking advantage of the generosity of others by asking shopkeepers for donations.

The family also want to clear up rumours that the injured teen, Rangitihi Tamati, has died as a result of the fire.

Rangitihi, 14, remains in a serious but stable condition at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital after the fire at his home in Meadowbank Cres at the weekend.

He suffered burns to his head, face, arms, chest and back in the fire overnight Saturday.

Following a whanau hui at the hospital this week, family member Jonelle Eru was appointed spokeswoman.

She said some of their children were coming home from school asking if Rangitihi was dead and the family wanted to make sure the rumours were cleared up.

"Rangitihi Tamati is in a stable but critical condition due to the injuries received during the house fire ...

"He is being cared for by the wonderful staff of Middlemore Hospital and surrounded by his loving whanau," she said.

"Rangitihi's whanau would like to thank the Rotorua Fire Service, Westpac Helicopters, Waikato Hospital, St John Ambulance and of course the wider community of New Zealand."

Ms Eru said the family was amazed by the generosity of members of the public around Rotorua and New Zealand since the fire.

"We are in awe of the correspondence and phone calls we have received. Please accept this as a personal thank you to each and every one of you. We have been inundated with donations and are humbled by the generosity of the people of Aotearoa."

However, she said the family was concerned people were taking advantage of local shop owners by asking for donations in Rangitihi's name.

"On Monday, someone claiming to be from the family collected donations on Rangitihi's behalf. The whanau knew nothing of this."

Since the weekend tragedy, Rangitihi's immediate family have moved to Auckland supported by two aunties and two uncles.

"As can be expected they are still very much in shock," Ms Eru said.

"At this time the whanau would like to be given privacy and only immediate family will be able to visit Rangitihi until further notice."

The Fire Service has determined the cause of the blaze was a cooking fire, which started in the kitchen and spread to other areas of the house.

Rotorua Fire Safety officer Stuart Bootten said they could not confirm whether the cooking was attended or unattended until they were able to speak with the victim.

The Meadowbank Cres house did not have any working fire alarms, and Mr Bootten said the incident should act as a warning to members of the public to check theirs.

He said if working smoke alarms were installed in the house, Rangitihi or his dad could have been given earlier warning of the smoke and possibly prevented serious injury.

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