Penal man dies in house fire

Trapped by his fears of being outdoors, Raffie Mohammed was burnt alive in a fire which destroyed his home in Penal on Monday afternoon.

His sister Nazra Baksh 52, who risked her life in a futile bid to save him, suffered extensive burns to her arms, back and legs, when she tried to pull him out from under a swing in the upper floor of the wooden house at Tulsa Branch Trace, Penal.

Mohammed, 47 suffered from down syndrome since birth and had never before left the safety of his home. He lived with his 87-year-old mother Shairoon Mohammed. 

Police said Mohammed and Shairoon were at home with their caretaker Judy Toll when the fire started in a back room.

Toll in an interview said she was in the bathroom when she heard Mohammed saying he was smelling smoke.

"I was bathing and I dry myself real fast and when I opened the door and went in the back, the room was in flames, " Toll recalled. She quickly started to get Shairoon, who hobbies with a walker, to safety. 

Shairoon began calling out for Mohammed. He did not respond. Faced with the terror of the fire, Mohammed frantically started looking for a place to hide.

"He went under the swing and I tried to pull him out but he refused, " Toll said.

She then started to scream for help. Mohammed's sister Baksh who lives across the street, rushed in to help. she tried in vain to get a whimpering Mohammed out.

By then the entire house was in flames and parts of the burning rafters were falling down.

Toll said Balsh's skin started to fall off with the heat but she kept trying to pull Mohammed out. Eventually a passerby ran inside and pulled Baksh and Toll to safety.

Toll suffered superficial burns to her arms while Shairoon suffered abrasions to both knees and her toes. 

Mohammed remained crouched by the swing while the flames engulfed his body. Firefighters are at this time trying to find the cause of the fire.

Toll said there was nothing left lighting in the house. 

- by Radhica De Silva. Photo by Kristian De Silva.

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