FAMILY and friends have paid tribute to a 20-year-old bride-to-be who died in a ferocious house fire in Accrington.
Fire crews were called to Susan Bradshaw’s Washington Street home at 3am on Saturday after neighbours heard the smoke alarm and saw thick clouds of black smoke coming from the property.
Mum-of-one Susan and her partner Andrew Wilkinson, who got engaged on Christmas Day, had been out for drinks with Susan’s stepdad, Steve Jackson, to celebrate his 57th birthday at Sydney Street Working Men’s Club.
Despite three working fire alarms, the couple did not wake until the fire was well alight.
Andrew, 34, managed to flee the house, believing that Susan was behind him, only to find she was nowhere to be seen.
He battled desperately to get back into the rented terraced house, which the couple had lived in for just two weeks, but was beaten back by the billowing smoke.
Fire crews wearing breathing apparatus found Susan upstairs and carried her out before trying to resuscitate her. She was taken to the Royal Blackburn Hospital but died from her injuries.
Andrew was taken to hospital and treated for severe smoke inhalation.
Susan’s four-year-old daughter Courtney-Leigh was staying with her grandparents at the time of the fire, which is believed to have been caused by a discarded cigarette.
Next-door neighbour Liam Holt, 21, of Water Street, had to be evacuated because of the smoke and raised the alarm.
He said: "All we could hear was the fire alarm going off and someone shouting for help. I went out into the street and saw all the smoke. I flagged down a taxi and asked the driver to call the Fire Brigade.
"The lad got out and was screaming for someone to help get his girlfriend out. It was awful.
"He kept trying to get in the house to save her but the thick black smoke was pushing him back.
"Crews tried resuscitating the woman in the middle of the road and the police and fire officers had to restrain the man because he was hysterical. He was just crying and shouting her name."
Boyd Procter, 36, of Water Street, a friend of the couple, had been drinking with them just hours before the tragedy.
He described the couple as "inseparable", adding: "You never saw one without the other."
He added: "I went to see Andrew in hospital and he just looked haunted. He was in a complete state of shock. She was only 20 and had hardly started living."
Andrew is now believed to be staying with his sister but was too upset to speak.
Susan’s mum Janice, 42, of Water Street, said she was a bubbly, friendly girl who was looking forward to a new job and to getting married.
She added: "She was always laughing and really brightened the room when she walked in. She was really popular and the only way I could describe her is ‘totally nuts’.
"She and Andrew were so happy together. She loved him to bits and he worshipped the ground she walked on. He blames himself for what happened but he did everything he could to get her out.
"It has all been such a shock. She was so young and had so much to live for.’’
Dozens of floral tributes have been laid outside the boarded-up house, carrying messages of love from wellwishers.
Susan and Andrew, who had previously lived in Woodside Road, Huncoat, were familiar faces in the Sydney Street Club.
Steward John Freeman said: "It’s tragic. They were such a lovely couple – like shadows. Wherever one went, the other followed.
"Everybody in the club is shocked by the news."