Heartfelt tributes have been paid on social media for the three people who died in a flat fire in Langley Mill.
Amy Smith, 17, and her six-and-a-half-month-old daughter Ruby-Grace Gaunt, who lived in the flat, died along with friend Edward Green, 17, of Belper, after the blaze took hold in the early hours of Sunday.
Edward ran back into the flames after escaping the top-floor flat and realising Amy and Ruby-Grace were still inside. He has been hailed as a hero.
On Twitter, Emily Conheeney wrote: “I didn’t know him for long but I knew him enough to know he was a down to earth and genuine lad. Our loss and heaven’s gain. RIP Ed Green.”
Chris Booth added: “RIP Ed Green. Taken way before his time.”
On a Facebook memorial group, Jodie Mee said: “RIP girls and Ed.Heaven has gained two beautiful girls and a strong boy.”
Courtney Petrie said: “God takes the best, never the worst.”
Cheryl Reynolds said: “Such an awful, tragic loss. My heart goes out to the families.”
Superintendent Jim Allen, of Derbyshire police, said: “We are working closely with the fire service to determine how the blaze started. At this time, we are treating it as unexplained and we are meticulously working through all lines of inquiry to establish exactly what happened that morning.
“Specially trained police officers are working with all the families involved at this distressing time.”
Amy’s boyfriend Shaun Gaunt, 18, was among six people to escape the blaze.
He escaped from the fire after being rescued by neighbours before shouting ‘help, my baby and girlfriend are inside’, according to reports.
The young family are thought to have moved to Langley Mill three weeks before the tragedy.
Neighbours told the Daily Mirror that Ruby-Grace was born shortly before Christmas and said she was due to have open heart surgery after being born with defects.
It is understood the fire may have started in a car parked outside the house before spreading to the property.
Neighbours who tried to save the victims by running to the scene with ladders claimed there had been at least two disputes outside in the hours before the tragedy.
One, who asked not to be named, said: “There was a argument with a group of lads in a car during the afternoon and then a lad and a girl rowing in the street at about 8.30pm.”
One rescuer said “The baby’s father survived and is in hospital now. I have been told he was climbing down the ladder with the baby but slipped and nearly dropped her so passed her back to the mother. But after he had done so she collapsed.”
Another neighbour, Quinton Langton, helped rescue two terrified lads from the fire.
He told the Mirror: “They thought they were going to die. They were hanging out of a third floor window screaming ‘we can’t breathe, it’s too hot’.”
He added: “They were clinging on to a satellite dish and threatening to jump. We had ladders but they weren’t long enough.
“It was horrendous. They were pleading for help saying ‘we’re going to jump or we’ll die.’ One kept saying ‘my girlfriend, get her.’
“Someone appeared with a long extended ladder round the back and by a miracle we managed to get those lads to safety.”
His wife Suzanne, who was the first to raise the alarm, told reporters: “I heard screaming and banging and ran outside to see a car on fire close to the front door and black smoke and flames pouring from the building. It was awful.”
Her husband added: “A lot of the place is wooden cladding and the fire ripped through it. Usually a moped is stored in hall and that may have fuelled the blaze.”
Paul Barber, who lives next door, said: “The car was on fire and was pretty much gone. The falmes going up the house.
“One man threw his son to safety from a window onto a mattress. It is just horrendous – they were a nice little family, a cute family.”
Fire crews from Eastwood, Heanor, Ilkeston and Ripley, along with a high-rise ladder from Ascot Drive station in Derby, attended the incident at about 4am.
John Dunkley, a watch manager with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS), tweeted on Sunday morning: “Terrible night shift. Thoughts with all personnel from all emergency services involved at Langley Mill.”
A DFRS spokesman said: “Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the family and friends of the deceased.”
DFRS assistant chief fire officer Gavin Tomlinson said: “We are keeping a totally open mind as to how the blaze started. No cause has been ruled out. It will be very slow process. We will investigate every possible cause.”
He added: “It is too early to say if the fire was started deliberately.”
Mr Tomlinson said the blaze started on the ground floor. Wheelie bins at the front were also damaged.
Five people were taken to hospital – four to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham and one to the Royal Derby Hospital – for treatment for smoke inhalation.
Joe Garcia, associate director of operations at East Midlands Ambulance Service, said: “I would like to thank our crews for their hard work at this challenging job and express our condolences to the families of those involved.”
Several neighbouring properties had to be evacuated as the fire caused a gas leak.
A police cordon is in place on road today as shocked neighbours leave floral tributes at the scene.
Anyone with information should call police on 101.