By Munyaradzi Musiiwa
A GWERU businessman, his wife and daughter from Lundi Park low density suburb were burnt beyond recognition while his son escaped without injuries when their double storey apartment was gutted by fire yesterday.
The inferno is suspected to have been started by a cigarette stub on the ground floor at round 3AM.
Andreas Pile, 56, his wife Annalisa, 37, and their one-year-old daughter, all of Collin Brand Street in Lundi Park, Gweru, were burnt while neighbours watched helplessly.
The businessman used to own Twin Peaks Lodge and other properties in the Midlands capital.
Andreas, Lisa and their daughter are said to have arrived home around 2PM from Northlea suburb where they were attending a party.
Benjamin, the businessman’s eldest son, who escaped without injuries, endured the agony of watching his screaming family members burn to death.
Benjamin recounted the horror to The Chronicle.
He said he survived because he was sleeping in the lounge on the ground floor.
Benjamin said the inferno consumed the wooden stairway, cutting off the family’s escape route.
He said the fire came from the ground floor, razed the stairway and destroyed all property in the apartment.
“I was sleeping in the lounge when the fire started. I was awakened by smoke coming from the bedrooms upstairs and I ran out and called for help from neighbours. When we returned the whole apartment had been engulfed in flames and my parents were crying out for help,” he said.
A neighbour said: “We watched in horror as fire rapidly spread to the upstairs bedroom where Pile and Lisa were screaming for assistance. The infant also cried, but all in vain.”
The neighbour said the screams slowly died away followed by explosions of the bodies.
Isau Hondora, who shares the semi- detached apartment with the Piles, said he was awakened by Annalisa’s screams.
“I heard Lisa crying for help and I woke up only to find their apartment engulfed in flames.
“We called the Gweru Fire Brigade while we tried in vain to put out the fire using a garden hosepipe. We then sent a car to call the fire brigade after realising they were taking long to respond,” said Hondora.
He said the panic-stricken residents sent two more people on different occasions to make a follow up and by the time the fire brigade arrived, it was too late.
“Lisa, her husband and the baby had stopped crying, an indication that they were dead,” said Hondora.
Gweru City Council chief fire officer, Emmanuel Musemwa said they suspected the fire was caused by a cigarette stub.
He said they were however still to interview a key witness.
“Initial investigations indicate that the couple was coming from a party in Northlea.
“It’s also been established that Pile was a heavy smoker. We suspect that the fire was caused by a cigarette stub which smouldered on the carpet until it ignited a sofa before the rest of the property caught fire,” he said.
Musemwa said the stairway to the couple’s bedroom was reduced to ashes making it impossible for them to climb down.
“When we got to the scene neighbours were trying to put out the fire,” he said.
Musemwa urged Gweru residents to use emergency numbers which he said are inscribed on the water bills to call for help, instead of driving to the fire station.
“The numbers are 222011/2, 993 and 994,” he said.
The Officer Commanding Gweru District, Chief Superintendent, Martin Makusha, confirmed the incident.
“We’re still investigating the case and I can only give a detailed account after we finish the investigations,” said Chief Insp Makusha.
The Chronicle arrived at the scene at around 6AM and witnessed members of the Gweru Fire Brigade putting out the fire and retrieving the charred bodies from the first floor of the apartment. The Chronicle