THE elderly parents of a Stormont MLA were killed in a house fire in the early hours of this morning.
The Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) confirmed that they were called to the blaze at 8.44am and 19 firefighters attended the incident in Bangor, Co. Down.
NIFRS Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Aidan Jennings explained: “This morning (Monday 23 January) at 8.44am, Firefighters were called to reports of a fire in a detached house in Dellmount Park, Bangor.
“Five appliances and 19 firefighters were quickly on the scene from Bangor, Donaghadee, Newtownards and Holywood Fire Stations.
“Firefighters rescued two people from the house and extinguished the fire,” they added.
“Paramedics administered first aid to the casualties, but tragically they died at the scene."
Independent unionist Alex Easton confirmed this afternoon that it was his mother and father, Alec and Ann Easton, who were in their 80s, who had died in the fire.
The politician, formerly a member of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), went on to ask for privacy for his family as they come to terms with the loss.
"I can’t believe I am having to say this but both my Mum and Dad have passed away," he said.
"I don’t know what to say, but I would ask that you give myself and my family time to process things and respect our privacy as we grieve."
He added: “The family deeply appreciate the work of the Police Service, Fire Service, Ambulance Service, Air Ambulance Service and all Emergency Responders – we pay tribute to their professionalism and care."
Cross-party politicians paid their respects to Mr Easton today.
Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, First Minister Designate of Northern Ireland, said in a statement: “Deepest sympathies to Alex Easton on the tragic loss of his parents. My thoughts are with Alex and his wider family circle at this desperately sad time.”
Former DUP Leader Arlene Foster also paid tribute in a post on Twitter, stating: “Words are inadequate at such a devastating loss, but I send my love and prayers to my former colleague Alex and hope he finds the strength along with the rest of the family to come to terms with the death of his parents in this awful way.”
Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey added: "On behalf of myself and the Assembly, I want to express my sympathies to Alex Easton and his family circle following the tragic death of Alex’s parents.”
The cause of the fire is now being investigated, with the PSNI confirming: "An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire and our officers have been in the area conducting enquiries.
"We would appeal to anyone with information they believe may assist our investigation to call us."
Anyone with information is asked to call detectives in Bangor on 101, and quote reference number 298 23/01/23 .