'I was beside myself' - Woman left shaken after witnessing deadly Auckland house fire

A neighbour who witnessed the deadly house fire in East Auckland yesterday says she’s had trouble sleeping because the incident has left her so shaken. 

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Cockle Bay resident Gayleen Mackereth witnessed the blaze in Cockle Bay. Source: 1 NEWS

Gayleen Mackereth, who has lived in Cockle Bay for 40 years, told 1 NEWS she didn’t realise the full gravity of the situation at first because the house had been empty for days. 

“I didn’t at that point realise that somebody was there. So, when I found out, I felt extremely sick to think that those people were injured or worse,” she said.

“I was beside myself. … It’s very, very upsetting to think somebody’s lost their life.

“I didn't really sleep last night at all. We’re all pretty shaken.” 

One person died in the fire on Minerva Terrace on Tuesday, and two others had been injured. Investigations into the cause of the fire are continuing today.

Mackereth, a tetraplegic, said she was “really quite frightened” that the fire would spread and she wouldn’t be able to escape.

She said her dog alerted her to the fire, and she heard screams and a “massive explosion”. 

“We thought it was gunfire to start with, but it wasn’t … it was like big detonations,” Mackereth said.

“My husband then screamed ‘the house next door’s on fire!’”

She said she then went outside, and saw one of the neighbours was “running up and down the staircase”.

“[Someone said] get away, it’s going to collapse. He says no, there’s somebody in there. And so he was trying to get in and another neighbour was trying to get in.

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Police and fire investigators remained at the property today, trying to establish what caused the blaze. Source: 1 NEWS

“They were all panicking.”

She said one of the neighbours didn’t have shoes on, but “was desperate to help”. 

“It was so bright, and there was just a centre that was bright yellow and then orange and the smoke was billowing everywhere. 

“The dog was very, very concerned, he was very upset and crying and upset. He obviously knew something wasn’t normal at all.”

By the time fire crews arrived at the scene, Mackereth said the fire was “well ablaze” and “real black smoke” was billowing from it. 

Mackereth said she believed the fire would have started in the kitchen, because she had been in the house multiple times before.

She said she didn’t know the people who had most recently lived in the house, because they had moved in recently. 

“We know all the neighbours - that was the only phone number I didn’t have.”

Another neighbour told 1 NEWS they knew the person who passed away really well, and “this awful tragedy couldn’t have happened to a nicer person”.