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Childhood sweethearts die in blaze

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An elderly couple who were childhood sweethearts died in their Mornington Peninsula home this morning after deadlocks barred their escape from deadly flames. William and Winifred Ramus, both 86, were found dead by fire authorities in their Bay Road home in Mt Martha soon after 3am (AEST).

The couple was believed to have symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and dementia, a fire authority spokesman said.

While the two tried in vain to escape through the front and back doors, fire authorities say a functional smoke detector may have saved their lives.

Country Fire Authority operations officer Trevor Owen said the fire’s probable cause was a faulty electric blanket.

The couple were regular recipients of Meals on Wheels and other support services and were on the verge of moving out of their family home of 26 years.

“They were due to be moved into a nursing home within a week or two,” Mr Owen said.

“There is a belief that the smoke alarm was not working … if they had of been alert, they probably would have got out.”

A witness told the Nine network Mr Ramus had Parkinson’s disease and was virtually housebound.

“The old man had Parkinson’s – he could not have not got out and he has been stuck in there for years,” the witness said.

Another witness said firefighters had the fire under control by the time they went outside to check the fire.

“We woke up and we saw the flames and they were flying out the window on top of the roof,” the witness said.

“And by the time we got to the front of our driveway, then they had it under control.”

Fire authorities said people should not deadlock themselves inside their homes.

“But unfortunately, as a result of this tragic circumstance, where they’ve been unable to exit the building as a result of deadlocking on the inside,” a fire authority told Nine.

“So the message is quite clearly – don’t deadlock on the inside when you’re home.”

A taxi driver alerted firefighters to the fire, which it took around 40 minutes to bring under control.

The coroner will investigate.

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