Schoolgirl, 12, saves babies in flat fire

By Lynley Bilby

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Tiana Levi (black jacket) is being hailed a hero for getting stepmother Daniella Lewis' babies Harmony, Keita and Sunnie to safety. Photo / Michael Craig
Tiana Levi (black jacket) is being hailed a hero for getting stepmother Daniella Lewis' babies Harmony, Keita and Sunnie to safety. Photo / Michael Craig

A 12-year-old bundled newborn twins and another baby through thick black smoke to safety after a pot sterilising bottles sparked a fire in an upper-storey flat in South Auckland early yesterday.

Schoolgirl Tiana Levi is being hailed a hero after making a lifesaving dash down a blackened stairwell in the middle of the night clutching 13-week-old twins Sunnie and Harmony and 1-year-old Keita.

Their mother, Daniella Lewis, fled the Mangere inferno by jumping on to a verandah.

She was pulled to safety through a nightclub window, and was treated at Middlemore Hospital for smoke inhalation.

Recovering at her mother's West Auckland home just hours later, the shaken young mum said the blaze was a nightmare.

"I ended up getting stuck on the roof. There was only one way up and down into our flat."

The grateful 19-year-old said she owed everything to the quick actions of Tiana, her stepdaughter. "She took all the kids out on her own."

Grandmother Emily Lewis said what Tiana did was nothing short of heroic. "The phone call I got from Daniella could have been very different."

As businesses dealt with the water and smoke damage in the Mangere Town Centre shopping block, Daniella Lewis revealed she had left some bottles sterilising in a pot of water on the stove.

Tired from days of broken sleep, the mother of three had then fallen asleep.

She was woken by the sound of crackling around 2.30am and saw a glow coming from the kitchen.

Flames blocked her passage to her sleeping children and stepdaughter, so she was forced to resort to banging wildly on the wall and screaming to wake them up.

Hearing the frantic cries, Tiana picked up the twins from their makeshift lounge bedroom, strapped them into their double stroller and then grabbed Keita, who was fast asleep in a different bedroom.

Said Lewis: "As soon as I heard her say she had got the babies, I knew I could get out."

With the flames threatening to spread to neighbouring businesses, including the A-Way Nightclub, Lewis jumped out a back window and ran along the verandah roof to raise the alarm.

She eventually managed to get the attention of nightclub DJ Dillon Patea, who hauled her through a window to safety.

Meanwhile, members of the club's resident band, Folasi, raced to the burning flat to help save the children.

Said Lewis: "I screamed at them to get my babies and just kick down the door."

The young mother, who has lost everything, says she doesn't know what she's going to do or where she's going to live. But she's thankful they all got out alive.

"I don't have anything - everything's gone - but at least I've got my kids."

Robert Watson, a senior fire risk management officer with the Fire Service, said the young family were extremely lucky to get out of the blaze unharmed.

The Fire Service was investigating the cause of the blaze.

If you would like to help or make a donation please email Herald on Sunday here.

- Herald on Sunday

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