TRIBUTES were paid yesterday to four children killed when a fire ripped through their home as they lay asleep in their beds early yesterday.
Riley Holt, eight, Keegan Unitt, six, Tilly Rose Unitt, four, and three-year-old Olly Unitt all died in the blaze.
Their mother Natalie Unitt, 24, her partner Chris Moulton, 28, and two-year-old Jack survived by leaping from a first-floor window.
They remain in hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Neighbours suggested the fire in Highfields, Stafford, was caused by a gas explosion but fire chiefs, who remained at the scene last night, would not comment on the speculation.
Teachers described the children as ‘bright, happy, loving and lively’.
‘Our entire school community is absolutely devastated by this news,’ said Nicola Glover, headteacher at Castlechurch Primary School where Riley, Tilly and Olly were pupils.
She said Riley was a ‘confident, caring’ boy with a ‘great sense of humour and infectious giggle’ who came to school ‘every day full of enthusiasm’.
Nursery pupil Tilly was a ‘friendly, happy little girl who loved to read stories, dress up and paint’ and Olly was a ‘loving boy who loved cuddles’, she said.
Kim Ellis, headteacher at Marshlands Special School where Keegan was a pupil, said: ‘He was lively, full of fun and mischief with a really endearing smile. Everyone loved him.’
Neighbours told how flames engulfed the home at around 2.40am yesterday, causing part of the roof to collapse. ‘We just stood there with our hands over our mouths. I assumed they had all got out. It’s terribly sad,’ one woman said.
Amanda Blagg, whose son is in the same class as Olly, added: ‘I heard what had happened on the news and just cried. It’s awful.’ One note attached to a cuddly toy laid near the home read: ‘RIP Babes xx Life is so, so cruel’.
Another said: ‘To my lovely grandkids. Love you always xxx.’ A crowdfunding page set up to support the family had raised £10,000 last night.