ALEX Easton has spoken of his devastation at losing his elderly parents in a house fire, as he revealed an electrical fault was to blame for the tragedy.
    The MLA said his parents – double amputee Alec, and stroke victim Ann, both 83 – were likely asleep when an appliance in a bedroom caught fire, causing the Dellmount Park house to fill with fatal, heavy smoke.
    He said a post mortem confirmed they died of smoke inhalation.
    The Easton family are now preparing for the couple’s joint funeral on Saturday at Bangor Abbey, followed by interment in St Michael’s Parish Churchyard, Sixmilecross.
    Mr Easton is married to Denise and has a step-daughter, Lauren, and two grandchildren, Carson and Casey.
    Care workers from MCare NI, who visited the couple four times a day, raised the alarm after spotting the blaze in the front living room of the detached property when they arrived at about 8.45am.
    The 53 year-old Independent Unionist recounted the painful moment he arrived at the house where he had spent much of his childhood, a short distance from the Gransha Road.
    “I got the call at 8.45 and I flew down the road because I’m only five minutes away,” he said. “One fire appliance was there at the time and they wouldn’t let me try to get in.
    “Initially I was in desperation to try to get into the house to save them but they wouldn’t let me. I just didn’t understand what was going on.”
    From outside, he saw that the front window of the house had been blown out by the force of the blaze.
    Mr Easton, his voice breaking, continued: “Within about ten minutes there were about four fire appliances and an ambulance and the air ambulance and dozens of police.
    “It seems the police said there was some kind of electrical fault in his (father’s) bedroom and it was the smoke.
    “We think they had been asleep and didn’t know much about it,” he said. “But it was definitely an electrical fault.”
    Alex said paramedics had to move his parents out of the smoke-filled house in a bid to try to save them.
    “They had taken both of them outside to work on them and I kept getting conflicting reports that they had a pulse and it would get my hopes up.”
    It was there, in the back garden, that he finally got to see them.
    “When they both passed I had to identify them, but I wanted to see them anyway.”
    Speaking yesterday he said his sleep had not been great since the tragic incident and that he had just been spending time coming to terms with the shocking loss with his closest family.
    “I’m going to the house today with my sister, to get some things, for the first time,” he said.
    Otherwise, he hasn’t yet entered the property where his parents had made a home for 43 years.
    “I was at the house last night because the police had finished their investigation and a policeman had my dad’s watch; he gave it to me and it really took me aback a bit.”
    Recalling his final moments with his parents, Alex said his last words were about the usual mundanities of life.
    “I had seen my dad the day before. The last conversation I had with him was about a packet of biscuits for my mum, as I did the shopping for them every week.”
    Alex was always on hand, close by, as his sister Lorraine, a nurse at Lagan Valley Hospital, lives in Waringstown, while their brother Christopher, a Church of Ireland rector, lives in Armoy.
    Mr Alec Easton had been born in South Africa and was a retired engineer. He had worked abroad in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen and Bolivia during much of Alex’s childhood. His wife had been a stay at home mother.
    As the family now prepares for their final goodbye on Saturday, Alex reflected on his late parents’ frailty in recent years. “Dad had lost both his legs due to diabetes, so his health really wasn’t great in his final years,” he said. “Mum had a mini stroke and had memory issues. She was very wobbly and used walking sticks.”
    He confirmed the carers were there four times a day to make meals for them and tend to their needs between his regular visits with them. He said his parents had wanted to stay in their home, rather than moving into any type of elderly care setting. “My mum was very strong-willed and independent and just refused,” he said. “You wouldn’t have got her budged and obviously we wanted to respect their wishes.”
    Alex revealed in an interview how he had once found his father collapsed on the kitchen floor of his house, describing it as ‘one of the most traumatic things that I’ve ever been through’. That was shortly after the pensioner had lost one leg because of his diabetes.
    He also explained the connection to Sixmilecross, where his parents will be laid to rest. “My grandfather, on my mum’s side, was the Church of Ireland Rector there, the Reverend Richard Benson and he’s buried there with my granny and great-granny and we were all christened there and have lots of happy family memories from there,” he said.
    He was very keen to pay tribute to the emergency services for their attempts to save his parents. “I want to thank all of them. They really, really, really tried to save them,” he said, breaking down. “They were amazing; they went above and beyond.” “As a family we are also thankful for all the prayers and messages of condolence that we have received.”
    One neighbour expressed the sympathies of the local community. “It’s such an awful tragedy, they were a lovely couple, quiet and kept themselves to themselves. We are all just really devastated for the family. To lose one parent is bad enough but two in such awful circumstances — it’s just tragic.” In the Funeral Times notice, the family have requested: “Family flowers only please, donations in memory if desired made payable to either Cancer Research or Fields of Life c/o Melville Morgan Funeral Directors, 195 Clandeboye Road, Bangor BT19 1AA.