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Burnham fatal fire: Mother of teenage victim Elizabeth Marvin pays emotional tribute from hospital

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The mother of a teenage girl who died in a fatal house fire on the outskirts of the Burnham Military Camp says “words cannot describe” her grief after the loss of her daughter.

Elizabeth “Lizzy” Marvin, 16, died after a fire ravaged the property on Toanui St, just outside the army barracks south of Christchurch, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Three other people were injured in the blaze and taken to hospital.

In a statement this evening, Anne-Marie Armes said words could not describe the family’s grief and sense of loss at the passing of her daughter.

Burnham teenager Lizzy Marvin, 16, died following a house fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Photo / Facebook
Burnham teenager Lizzy Marvin, 16, died following a house fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Photo / Facebook

The Herald understands Armes remains in hospital following the fire.

“She was a beautiful and amazing young woman who was utterly selfless, kind, empathetic and loving to everyone around her. We will remember fondly her love of animals, especially horses.”

Armes said Lizzy had “found her way in life” in the last year and surrounded herself with people who shared her view of the world.

“She was so happy.”

Lizzy attended Rolleston College, not far from Burnham, as a Year 12 student.

“She always has been, and always will be, our angel. I was proud to be her mum,” Armes said.

“It will take Lizzy’s older brother Mikey and I a long time to learn how to continue life without her. We would ask for your understanding and respect for our privacy as we begin that process.”

Lizzy always had a smile on her face, according to a close school friend. Photo / Facebook
Lizzy always had a smile on her face, according to a close school friend. Photo / Facebook

A school friend contacted the Herald to say Lizzy would be missed by everyone.

“She was a very bright person and she always had a smile on her face, even when she was struggling,” the friend said.

“She loved to ride horses and she loved to perform in shows at school.

“But she loved her mum more than anything in the world.”

An investigation into the fire is continuing but, at this stage, authorities do not believe it occurred under suspicious circumstances.

Flowers and hand-written messages were left outside the ruins of the house on Friday, some from family members.

A Givealittle page has been set up to help support her family. So far, more than $12,000 has been donated.

Flowers and notes have been left at the house where teen Lizzy Marvin died. Photo / George Heard
Flowers and notes have been left at the house where teen Lizzy Marvin died. Photo / George Heard

“A special family has had a tragic loss and, in the spirit of community, we ask anyone who can to donate to help them,” the page, set up by a local service station worker, says. “No matter how small the donation is, it all counts to make a difference in their lives.

“[Armes] has always supported her family in any way she could and has been involved in many sporting and schooling events. She can be counted on to fight for her community, and now it’s our turn to support her.”

Armes acknowledged all first responders who rushed to the family’s aid after the fire broke out at their home.

“These include our neighbours, firefighters, ambulance staff and police. I also wish to thank the doctors, nurses and other staff of Christchurch Hospital, who have been amazing in their care. Thank you to each and every one of you.

“We acknowledge all those who have reached out to our family in the past few days. It is lovely to hear that Lizzy meant so much to people,” Armes said.

The housing block destroyed in the blaze is owned by the New Zealand Defence Force but sits outside the perimeter of the military camp.

Investigations are under way following the fatal house fire. Photo / George Heard
Investigations are under way following the fatal house fire. Photo / George Heard

Some properties are leased to civilian occupants through commercial property managers, the NZDF said in a written statement.

“Our thoughts are with the whānau who have lost a family member, and all of those impacted by [the] fire,” said Burnham camp commandant Major Julie Richardson.

When the alarm was raised at 2.21am on Wednesday, firefighters from the Rolleston station – located 8.3km away from Toanui St – were the first to arrive.

This was because the Burnham military fire station, located within the camp, was unmanned at the time.

Firefighters from the Rolleston station - located 8.3km away from Toanui St - were the first to arrive. Photo / George Heard
Firefighters from the Rolleston station – located 8.3km away from Toanui St – were the first to arrive. Photo / George Heard

Since January, the military fire station has been operating at reduced capacity, with NZDF personnel providing coverage between 8am and 4.30pm, Monday through Friday.

“This is in part due to the need to provide staff respite, and because of low emergency responder staffing levels,” the NZDF said in a written statement.

“The decision to operate on reduced coverage was consulted on, and supported by Fire and Emergency area commanders.

“The memorandum of understanding between the NZDF and Fire and Emergency ensures that during periods of reduced NZDF coverage, Fire and Emergency is able to provide cover, as was the case on Wednesday morning.”

Benjamin Plummer is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He has worked for the Herald since 2022.



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