Disabled charity volunteer dies in her bedroom as fire rips through

A disabled woman has died in her bedroom as fire ripped through her cluttered home, while her carer managed to escape, screaming for people to help her friend.

Long time friends Lesley Pace and Gaye Torney worked tirelessly for local churches and charities. They lived together – Ms Pace was Ms Torney’s carer and best friend.

But just after midnight Sunday morning, tragedy struck as their West Footscray home erupted in flames.

Disabled woman Gaye Torney (right) has died in her bedroom as fire ripped through her cluttered West Footscray home, while her carer managed to escape, screaming for people to help her friend. Source: 7 News

While Ms Pace ran out the front door to safety, her best friend Ms Torney, 62, died in her upstairs bedroom.

Ms Pace and called triple-0 but the blaze engulfed her home. Belongings stacked inside rooms and corridors made it more difficult for firefighters to reach her friend.

Neighbour Simon Walshe described the home as covered in “intense thick smoke”.

Thick smoke blanketed the home while the 62-year-old was trapped inside. Source: 7 News

Another neighbour Frank Forti, told 7 News how Ms Pace was distraught about her trapped friend.

“She just kept screaming ‘My friend upstairs, my friend upstairs, my friend upstairs’. She was screaming and panicked and in hysterics,” Mr Forti said.

Firefighters with breathing apparatus rushed inside, but it was too late.

“A couple of them just collapsed to the ground. You could see by their faces that they weren’t happy and things were going wrong,” another neighbour Simon Walshe said.

“It’s a tragedy. You know everybody knows each other. It’s our neighbourhood.”

Police suspected the fire started in the living room, possibly from towels too close to heaters. Source: 7 News

Ms Torney’s online profile explained her disability, saying: “My life has taken a radical turn-about after needing to go into forced retirement due to severe osteo-arthritis.”

Police suspected the fire started in the living room, possibly from towels too close to heaters.

“There are no signs of smoke alarms and no smoke detectors were heard,” Detective Senior Constable Mark Abela said.

Firefighters with breathing apparatus rushed inside, but it was too late. Source: 7 News

Metropolitan Fire Brigade Commander Roger Chitty said clutter inside the home made it difficult for crews to search for occupants.

A parish the women frequented, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, said Ms Pace had a large network and will be well supported, including a priest who was with her earlier on Sunday.