A distraught father begged neighbors to catch his two young daughters as he dropped them nearly 30 feet over the top-floor window of a burning apartment block.
Jay Payne, 26, was woken by a fire alarm just after midnight on Wednesday to find his flat in Somerset Court, Gosport, Hampshire engulfed in flames.
After hurling mattresses out to intercept them, he dropped the girls, ages seven and four, into the arms of residents who had already fled their homes before him and his wife.
Jay said, “The whole apartment is gone — we have nothing left.”
Dozens of firefighters were deployed to fight the blaze, which is an arson attack.
Families from 23 homes were rescued, four people were hospitalized with burns and smoke inhalation and taken for control. Four dogs and three cats were also rescued.
Jay said, “We were woken up by the fire alarm, I opened the door and flames and smoke came through.”
“The whole place went black. We screamed loudly that someone could help us.
“I threw a mattress out the window and threw my kids out, and then my wife and I jumped.
“It was very traumatic … my four-year-old daughter has burns on her arms from fingertips to shoulders.”
Shocked neighbor James Matthews said: “He was begging everyone please someone please help me someone please catch my children someone help us and it was horrific that someone was fearing for their lives.”
“He dropped the first girl and I caught her under her armpits and then he dropped the second girl and I think there was another neighbor, we sort of caught her fall together.”
Another resident, Jodie Mills, said: “Mattresses were thrown on the floor for the children to land on.”
“People were breaking their falls, others were getting burns. Lots and lots of smoke.’
Nev Lewendon, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service station manager, said: “People were screaming, there was panic in some of these flats because there were fears of evacuation.”
“So the emergency services came and quickly set up ladders to help the people who needed to be evacuated.”
“In some cases, people were helped down ladders, others were actually helped out of windows.”
“It was a fierce fire that first went through the middle block and then went up through the middle where the stairwell is.”
“I’m really proud of the teams that were there initially and those who came after that just to get involved and try to put out the fire.”
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Police said: “The fire is currently being treated as suspicious and police are staying on site and making inquiries with the fire service.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 quoting reference number 44230182829.
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