Man caring for sick brother dies with wife in blaze

A retired couple were among three Irish people who died after a house fire on the outskirts of London.

The couple, from Cobh, Co Cork, had been visiting the husband’s sick brother in Hornchurch, near Romford, Essex, when a fire engulfed the house during the early hours of Monday morning last.

Joe Whelan, who once served in the Naval Service and his wife Ann, had gone to take care of his brother, Jim.

A spokesman for London Fire Brigade said Ann was pronounced dead at the scene while Joe and Jim died hours apart in an east London hospital.

It is understood all three were in their late 60s and early 70s.

Four fire engines and 21 firefighters from Hornchurch, Dagenham, and Romford tackled the blaze at the mid-terraced house at Laburnum Avenue, Hornchurch.

It took nearly two hours to get the fire under control.

Tributes to the visiting couple who lived in the Cork Harbour town’s Tay Road were led by former TD and county councillor John Mulvihill.

He had served with Joe in the navy and described him as a “thorough gentleman”.

“He was a very quiet guy who was very well-respected, as was his wife. This is a terrible tragedy,” Mr Mulvihill said.

Mr Whelan had lived in Cork for many years, Mr Mulvihill said. Both he and his brother were originally from the greater Dublin area.

The couple are survived by grown-up children.

Jeffrey Prendergast, a neighbour who witnessed the Hornchurch fire, said Jim Whelan was “a very pleasant sort of guy” who kept himself to himself.

“I think his wife died some time ago. It is tragic, Mr Prendergast said.

It is believed Mr Whelan had lived in the area for a number of years.

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