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NEW ZEALAND DISASTERS AND TRAGEDIES
FOXTON HOUSE FIRE
SEPTEMBER 1929

The following was taken from the Te Puke Times of Tuesday 10 September 1929.

BURNED TO DEATH
EIGHT PEOPLE PERISH
FOXTON FARM TRAGEDY
SIX IN ONE FAMILY

Palmerston North
Sunday September 8 1929

A shocking tragedy occurred when an isolated farmhouse, situated in the centre of a block of 3000 acres near Himitangi, about 8 miles from Foxton, and not visible from anywhere except the sand-hills in the immediate neighbourhood was destroyed by fire either late on Friday night or early yesterday morning. A family of six, the owner of the farm, and an employee, perished in the flames.

The victims are;

Mr John Brown WESTLAKE, aged 67 years, farmer of Pahiatua
Mr Thomas WRIGHT, aged 47 years, share-milker
Mrs WRIGHT
Joyce WRIGHT aged 11 years
Bryan WRIGHT aged 8 years
Annie WRIGHT aged 6 years
Prudence WRIGHT aged 3 years
Mr Samuel Hewitt THOMSON aged 23 years, farm employee, son of Mr and Mrs Alexander THOMSON of Palmerston North.

The house was a death trap. It has only one exit. It was formerly a two-roomed whare, but since Mr Westlake took over the property in February last he had built a lean-to at the back, and at one side. It is reported that as a result of nervousness Mr Westlake had all the windows nailed down. Three bedrooms were in the lean-to portion. To get to Mr Wright’s bedroom one had to pass through the bathroom into Mr Westlake’s bedroom, then in to the children’s room. Thus both Mr and Mrs Wright had to pass through two other bedrooms and the bathroom before reaching the kitchen.

All the bodies were found among remains of wire mattresses and apparently the inmates had perished as they slept. Thomson occupied the kitchen and his body was discovered near his bunk.

The house was three and a half miles back from the main road, approachable only by a rough track over the sand-hills across swamps and through scrub.



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