Four-year-old twins have died alone in a house fire in an alternative lifestyle town near Byron Bay as residents reportedly witnessed a community bonfire.
The children, who slept together in their bedroom, are said to have died of smoke inhalation after a lit candle placed on a piano started a fire.
The tragedy was discovered when the girls’ father and his girlfriend checked the children and found them unconscious, with smoke billowing from the property, around 4 a.m. on Sunday.
Heartbreaking calls were made to triple zero for help – but it was too late to save them.
The house was one of 19 estates scattered around the isolated 40 hectare hinterland town of Byron Bay in northern New South Wales.
Residents who choose to live off-grid in the commune of Nunkeri Multi Occupancy see themselves as family and were enjoying a collective bonfire until the early hours of Sunday morning when tragedy struck
A member of the public reacts by holding a bouquet of flowers outside the house where four-year-old twin girls have died following a house fire
The girls slept together in a room near a piano. Sitting on the piano, according to police, was a burning candle that caused the fire
“Hurry, babies can’t breathe,” the girlfriend told the operator on the phone. Paramedics arrived shortly after, but neither of the two little girls could be resuscitated.
The twins were visiting their father at the town for the weekend. It is not yet clear how long they spent in the isolated alternative life camp.
Aerial footage of the isolated bush property shows several dwellings scattered among the trees.
There is no driveway, no fence to separate one house from another. Cars park randomly where their drivers can find space.
The community relies on a water reservoir at the center of the property and it is understood that they will pool resources where possible.
“They are like family,” a resident told Daily Mail Australia. “They are all so grieving right now. ”
The town of 20 houses has been around for 30 years and sits on 40 ha of farmland just a 30-minute drive from Byron Bay
Neighbors laid flowers for the grieving family
Four-year-old twin sisters both died from smoke inhalation after their home caught fire overnight. The house is in a ‘multi-use’ community on this street, 30 km west of Byron Bay
The town is only a 35-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of central Byron Bay – but for locals it’s a world of its own.
As Byron Bay has become gentrified and inundated with vacationers and celebrities, Goonengerry and similar small towns nearby still see themselves as ‘locals only’.
Residents embrace alternative lifestyles and, in simple terms, “enjoy a simple life”.
Those who lived in the commune were all together by the time the father of the twins noticed that smoke was rising from the room.
They were still there, shocked and confused, as emergency services arrived and tried to save the girls. A woman was also treated for shock at the scene.
Another woman choked back tears on Sunday as she delivered a bouquet of flowers, leaving them in the mailbox.
A handwritten note was left on one of the bouquets: “Mourning with you. ”
Horrified neighbors arrived at the house later on Sunday to drop off bouquets of flowers for the family
The girls’ father is crushed by the death of the twins and “in bad shape”.
“He feels guilty. He’s really shaken up, ”said a neighbor.
Some of the first responders were then forced to share the tragic news with the girls’ mother, who was not at home at the time.
“They are shocked, emptied, in mourning. (They have) no words, ”said another friend.
Deputy Mayor of Byron Shire, Sarah Ndiaye, said locals, especially people living in these types of hinterland communities, were particularly tight-knit.
The loss will be felt by the whole community, she said.
Police remain at the scene as they investigate the cause of the fire
“People at the scene obviously came in to check and saw what they saw and the police were called,” said Superintendent Dave Roptell, commander of the Tweed-Byron Police District.
“It is incredibly devastating to see… someone die under these circumstances.” But two four-year-old girls is just a tragic set of circumstances.
Detectives will work with fire investigators, who remain at the scene, to determine the exact cause of the blaze.
The house itself suffered little damage.
Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1-800-333,000.
Police are investigating whether a candle was left burning inside the house overnight
There is no driveway, no fence to separate one house from another. Cars park randomly where their drivers can find a secluded space