Former Queensland Reds centre Charlie Fetoai remained deeply saddened last night as he tried to come to terms with the sudden loss of six members of the Lale family.

The 24-year-old travelled to Slacks Creek last night as he tried to comfort survivors, family and friends of the Lale's, who lost six of their own in a horrific fire on Tuesday night.

In total the blaze is believed to have claimed 11 lives from the tight-knit Pacific Islander community south of Brisbane.
                   
Charlie Fetoai in action for the Queensland Reds in 2009.
Charlie Fetoai in action for the Queensland Reds in 2009.

Jeremiah Lale survived the fire but must now come to terms with the loss of his wife Neti-Teukisia (Jeanette) and five children – aged three to 18 – Paul, Jerry, Lafoa'i, Richard and Selamafi.

All failed to escape the two-storey house in Wagensveldt St which went up in flames around 2.30am on Wednesday morning.

Fetoai was good friends with many of the Lale family members and was devastated as the depth of the tragedy began to be made clear.
From top left: Anamalia Taufa, Ardelle Lee, Fusikalau Taufa, Neti-Teukisia Lale, and Jerry Lale. From bottom left: Kahlani Matauaina, La'Haina Matauaina, Selamafi Lale, Paul Lale, Lafoa'i Lale, and Richard Lale.
From top left: Anamalia Taufa, Ardelle Lee, Fusikalau Taufa, Neti-Teukisia Lale, and Jerry Lale. From bottom left: Kahlani Matauaina, La'Haina Matauaina, Selamafi Lale, Paul Lale, Lafoa'i Lale, and Richard Lale.

He was too distraught to speak but friend and colleague Michael Kemp, a lawyer acting on behalf of the Lale family, said Fetoai was shattered by the news.

''He's devastated. The whole Samoan and Tongan community is devastated. To lose 11 people in one go is horrific,'' Kemp said. ''It's just horrific. They are all a bit lost.''

Fetoai represented his country at junior level before entering the system with the Brisbane Broncos feeder clubs Aspley and Toowoomba. He returned to his schoolboy code of rugby union and played 23 games for the Queensland Reds, with his career ending in 2009 after he was almost paralysed in a tackle during a club rugby game.
Family and friends of the eleven people believed to have died in the fire gather at the scene.
Family and friends of the eleven people believed to have died in the fire gather at the scene.

As part of his rehabilitation he continued his work as a part-time barber at Fadez, the Goodna barbershop owned by Kemp and Jerry Lale – the nephew of Jeremiah. The shop, favoured by NRL and rugby players, also has outlets in Sydney and Brisbane.

Kemp said Fetoai came to have a close association with the entire Lale family and was struggling to digest news of the tragedy, which was yesterday described by Logan Mayor Pam Parker as the saddest day in the city's history.

''He knows them very well. After his accident, he went to work for Fadez to help his dexterity because he was paralysed. He was very close to the family before his accident at the Reds and even closer now,'' Kemp said.
The gutted house in which eleven people are feared dead.
Fetoai now works for Kemp as part of his management company and also works with Mission Australia as an Indigenous Employment program mentor.

Wallabies star Digby Ioane was also associated with Fadez, appearing on billboards for his barbershops but did not have any close ties to the Lale family.

The Salvation Army is collecting donations for the families of the Slacks Creek fire victims. Telephone 13 72 58 or visit www.salvos.org.au, quoting 'Slacks Creek Fire' in the comment field.
Police and fire officers at the scene of the fire.

House fire tragedy in Slacks Creek

Police and fire officers at the scene of the fire.
  • Police and fire officers at the scene of the fire.
  • Family, friends and members of the community gather outside the house.
  • Queensland Premier Anna Bligh with family and friends who gathered to mourn outside the house.
  • Emergency workers survey the scene of the fire.
  • Queensland Fire Service investigators examine the scene of the fire.
  • Queensland Fire Service investigators examine the scene of the fire.
  • Family, friends and local residents gather outside the house in Slacks Creek.
  • Police officers gather outside the house in Slacks Creek.
Rostron Carlyle Solicitors would like to invite people to forward donations for funeral expenses for all families. Make a bank deposit for the Lale Foundation, BSB 034001, account number 105467.

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