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Firework destroys Michael’s mobility scooter

Disabled man’s ‘LIFELINE’ taken from him by fire

By Ciara Quinn

fA DISABLED Poleglass man said “I’ve lost my independence” after a firework ignited a fierce blaze at his home destroying his vital mobility scooter.56-year-old Michael Bailey from Laurelbank, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, stored his mobility scooter in an outdoor shed that was reduced to just  a blackened shell by the devastating Halloween night fire.

A distraught Mr Bailey told the Andersonstown News that he will now effectively be confined to his home as he has to personally cover the cost of a replacement scooter – and he just can’t afford it.

“Me and my wife were just sitting in the living room on Monday night around 7pm when I heard crackling coming from the back and then the front door was banging with the neighbours shouting that the shed was on fire.

“I had to be carried out of the house as the back path, which has been adapted for my needs, was too dangerous to use because of the fire,” he said.

Michael, who had worked as a chef up until his diagnosis five years ago, said his “lifeline” has been taken away from him by the blaze, believed to have been caused by a stray firework. “Having the scooter made it so easy for me to get out of the house, to go to the shops and basically it was my lifeline. It will cost me over a thousand pounds to replace it and I don’t have that kind of money. I don’t want to have to sit in the house all the time – I don’t know what we are going to do.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Stephen Magennis said the Bailey family had experienced the “sinister side of Halloween”.

“I was on the ground with other representatives from the Safer Neighbourhood Project and there were kids and adults going mad with fireworks. It was just bonkers, I’m talking rockets going off left right and centre.

“When I got to Michael’s house he was being carried out the front door – the back windows were actually starting to buckle with the heat from the fire,” he said.

“A firework landed on Michael’s shed and the whole thing caught so quickly that it went up in seconds.”

Cllr Magennis paid tribute to neighbours who came to Mr Bailey’s aid.

“Michael is lucky that he has good neighbours here, but the same cannot be said of those who did this to his property.

“Michael is going to have to replace the shed and scooter out of his own pocket and you are talking a lot of money here.“It’s a disgrace that this has happened to a man so well thought of in this area and we are lucky there weren’t any fatalities.”A spokesperson for the  Fire Service said: “Fire crews dealt with an accidental fire involving a shed in the rear of a garden at a property in Laurelbank.”

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