‘Beautiful souls’: Five boys killed in Russell Island fire are mourned

‘Beautiful souls’: Five boys killed in Russell Island fire are mourned

August 7, 2023

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Five boys who died in a house fire on an island off Brisbane have been remembered as “beautiful souls”, as the community rallies around their grieving family struggling to come to grips with the tragedy.

Wayne Godinet, 34, and his five children, aged between three and 11, were killed when a fire ripped through their Todman Street home on Russell Island on Sunday morning.

Wayne Godinet and Samantha Stephenson.Credit: Nine News

Samantha Stephenson, 28, Godinet’s partner and the boys’ mother, escaped the blaze, alongside another woman, and rushed for help. Both were taken to hospital but were released on Monday.

Family from New Zealand, Melbourne and Sydney were expected to fly in to help the family.

Zac, 11, Harry, 10, Nicky, 3, and four-year-old twins Kyza and Koah perished in the flames.

The fire spread quickly to two nearby properties, which were also damaged.

A family friend, Peter MacLoughlin, arrived before the firefighters, saying the boys’ mother called him asking for help just after 6am.

“[She] came out very distressed saying children were inside, as was her partner,” he said.

“There was nothing I could do.”

Police were unable to determine if the fire was suspicious, urging the community to “keep an open mind”.

A taskforce of detectives worked on Monday to determine the cause, and Detective Superintendent Andrew Massingham said some aspects of the fire required “closer scrutiny”.

Fire crews battled the large blaze that engulfed multiple homes on Russell Island, in Brisbane’s south-east.Credit: Nine News

“The elements that need further investigation or clarification must remain confidential at this time as there are a number of persons yet to be interviewed and versions taken,” he said.

Massingham said police were investigating whether Godinet was supposed to be at the residence.

He said Godinet was known to police, and officers had attended the home previously.

Neighbours first on the scene said they were unaware of any incident before the fire.

The fire engulfed the Todman Street home, and also spread to two neighbouring properties.Credit: Nine News

Police said when Stephenson rushed out to get help, Godinet went upstairs to where the children were sleeping.

Evandro de Azevedo, a friend of Godinet’s who worked with him for three years, said Godinet lived for his children.

“He was one of the sweetest and friendliest people I’ve ever met and very hardworking,” he said.

“Always willing to help everyone and he lived for his children.”

A family member posted online about the Russell Island house fire tragedy.Credit: Facebook

A family member posted photos of Godinet and the children, explaining on Sunday how she stayed awake “mourning the loss of six beautiful souls”.

“Waynie boy and my nephews … we have suffered a great loss,” she said.

Police urged the close-knit community to keep an open mind about the circumstances of the fire.

“Whilst these issues are very emotive, it is very important that not only us as investigators keep an open mind, but it’s also important for the community to think that way, as challenging as that may be for some people,” Massingham said.

“We really need to be left to do our job.”

Redland City Council Mayor Karen Williams told the ABC the boys would be very missed at school. She said she had heard they were well-behaved children.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was expected to visit the island in coming days, while Police Minister Mark Ryan and Communities Minister Leeanne Enoch were both on the island on Monday afternoon to help with community support.

The bodies were expected to be retrieved on Monday.

On Monday evening, $20,000 had been donated to an online fundraiser for Stephenson to cover funeral costs, while another fundraiser for one of the damaged properties nearby had raised more than $3000.

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