Horrified neighbours on the quiet cul de sac where a father and son both died gathered helplessly outside the burning house – not knowing if anyone was trapped inside.
They dialled 999 after seeing smoke and flames in the semi on Tennyson Close, Penistone, but it was only when firefighters searched the house the full horror of the blaze became apparent.
Dad Darren Sykes and one of his two young sons, Paul, were found dead. Older son Jack was critically injured.
Devastated residents were left reeling when stretchers carrying the three casualties emerged from the blazing home.
Darren, aged 44, and nine-year-old son Paul died at the scene while Jack, 12, who survived, was fighting for life in hospital in Manchester last night – with his devastated mum, Claire, at his bedside.
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Neighbours said Claire had recently moved out of the family home, taking the boys with her, following ‘domestic problems’.
Neighbour Barrie Hall, aged 73, a retired security officer, praised Darren as a father. “He loved his kids,” he said. “You’d hear him playing with his kids all the time. He’d play anything with them – he was a bigger kid than they were.”
Mr Hall said nobody realised anyone was in the house until the stretchers emerged.
“We didn’t know until later that anybody was in there,” he said. “It was a shock. It’s terrible. It just blows you away. I saw smoke at first and then, after a while, I saw the glow of the flames but didn’t realise Darren was in because he was always in and out. I was actually worried about the disabled man next door but thankfully he was with relatives.”
Jack Briggs, 62, said: “It is terrible. If the young boy who survived wakes up his world is going to have been devastated. To think that everything has changed for him in such a short space of time is awful, and he has all our sympathies.”
Mum May Williams, 30, who moved onto the street only last month, said: “It’s absolutely horrendous.”
Neighbour Ken Riddle, 77, told The Star: “We are all terribly shocked. My wife noticed smoke coming out of the house across the road.
“I went outside and lots of neighbours were already out. The ambulance and fire brigade were there quickly and did a marvellous job but it’s terrible two people have died. Darren is a guy I know quite well. He’s always very nice and helpful to us and other neighbours. It’s a terrible shock, especially when a child has died too.”
Neighbour Alan Shaw said: “I was coming back from walking the dog at about 6.30pm and, as I came out of the park, I saw smoke everywhere. I thought it was coming from a garage and then I realised the house was on fire. It transpired it was a big fire and soon fire engines turned up.
“It’s unbelievable really. I’m still in shock – you just don’t expect it to happen outside your own home. The family had lived here for a while but had moved away recently and come back. I think there had been some kind of domestic problem.”
Penistone MP Angela Smith said she was ‘saddened to hear the terrible news’.
“Penistone is a close-knit community and everyone living in the town will be deeply shocked and upset by this tragedy,” she added.
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