Witnesses have described the horrific scene of a car fire that killed an ex-rugby league player, his wife and three children on a suburban street in Brisbane.
Police were called to Raven Street in Camp Hill about 8.30am after receiving reports of a car on fire.
Three children, aged six, four and three were found dead inside the vehicle after the car went up in flames.
Rowan Baxter, 42, was declared dead at the scene after emergency crews attempted to revive him.
The mother of the children, Hannah Baxter, was rushed to hospital but later died of her injuries.
The Courier Mail spoke exclusively to a witness who claimed Mr Baxter jumped into his estranged wife’s car while she was on the school run, setting it on fire before stabbing himself to death.
Neighbour Aaron Snell also told the paper Mr Baxter was in “all manner of states’ and jumped into the flaming car to grab a knife while bystanders tried to help.
Mr Snell said the heroic acts of bystanders were met with anger by Mr Baxter who was “protesting to stop putting it out.”
Nine News reported Mr Baxter had bought a jerry can of fuel from a nearby petrol station
and poured it over the car. He then died of self-inflicted stab wounds, it said.
Police confirmed to news.com.au that Mr Baxter’s body was found outside the car, but wouldn’t say whether he had stabbed himself.
All three of the couple’s children — Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey — are believed to have perished in the fire.
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The victims are understood to have lived in the area. Nine reported Ms Baxter and her three children had been staying with her parents in Camp Hill.
Family friend Brian Cavanagh told the network the incident was “beyond comprehension”.
“I couldn’t figure out how come Hannah was in the car with him,” he said.
Police said Ms Baxter, 31, was believed to be driving the car.
One resident told The Australian that another witness saw a woman, believed to be Ms Baxter, jump from the burning car and yell, “He’s poured petrol on me.”
He said Ms Baxter was “rolling on the footpath in flames”. This was reportedly followed by “four other explosions”.
Neighbour Murray Campbell told Nine when he ran outside, “the vehicle was engulfed by flames and a lady was screaming”.
Local Steve Titmus told Nine it was a deeply confronting thing to have happened in his neighbourhood.
Meanwhile, a neighbour has shared a horrific detail about the agony Ms Baxter was in during the incident.
The neighbour told The Courier-Mail a man who was outside washing his car when the incident happened rushed over to try to help Ms Baxter as she jumped out of the car.
“She was awake and conscious and completely aware of what had happened,” the neighbour said.
“Skin was peeling off her, and she held her hands up … bits were hanging off. It was really quite horrific.”
Andrew Sinclair, who was working from home about 100 metres away from the incident, said the look on Ms Baxter’s face was one that would stay with him for a long time.
“She was looking directly at me, just staring,” Mr Sinclair said.
“The look of hurt looking straight at me, and seeing her clothing being burnt with her skin coming off her body, it was an awful thing to see.”
“On arrival, police and emergency services have identified five people that were involved in the fire inside the vehicle. I can confirm that we have three deceased children under the age of 10 in the vehicle,” Detective Inspector Mark Thompson told reporters at the scene.
“We have another deceased adult male who was known to the children, and we also have a victim suffering extensive injuries that are also known to the children and the adult male.”
It is understood Mr Baxter, a former New Zealand Warriors player, was in a custody battle with Ms Baxter, according to The Courier-Mail.
Mr Baxter’s recent posts on Facebook all revolve around his children, with him sharing multiple photos of the kids and writing, “Daddy loves you.”
One of Mr Baxter’s Facebook friend posted on one of his photos telling him to “chin up”.
“Chin up brother everything will work out just hang in there my bro a lot of people care about you and the situation your facing,” he wrote.
A New Zealand Warriors spokesman said Mr Baxter was in their NRL squad in 2005.
“Rowan didn’t play an NRL match. He was in our full-time NRL squad in 2005. He played in NRL trials,” the spokesman said.
CAUSE OF FIRE INVESTIGATED
Mr Thompson said it was too early to comment on how the fire started.
“How the fire actually occurred has not been ascertained at the moment, so for us to call it a murder-suicide or a tragic accident, it’s inappropriate at this stage,” he said.
“I’ve seen some horrific scenes – this is up there with some of the best of them.
“It’s a terrible thing to be presented with.”
Mr Thompson said the car was “fully emerged in fire” when police arrived on the scene.
“It’s a horrific scene. It would be a horrific thing for emergency services, police, fire and ambulances to deal with in the coming days,” he said.
Earlier, Police Minister Mark Ryan told Queensland Parliament the people were found dead at the scene and described it as a “horrific incident”.
“I have just been informed by the police commissioner that three people have died, including children, in a horrific incident at Camp Hill this morning,” he said.
“All emergency services are on scene.
“The situation is at a very early stage and I am informed that police are investigating all of the circumstances surrounding this tragic set of events.
“My thoughts are with all of those affected by this terrible tragedy.”
A resident told The Courier-Mail he was first alerted to the incident after hearing screams from the street.
“I had people working at my house and we could hear screams and calls for help,” he said.
Queensland Ambulance Service senior operations supervisor Adrian Tong said two people were taken to hospital with burns.
Ms Baxter was rushed to hospital with “severe burns to a significant part of her body” after paramedics secured her airway at the scene.
Mr Tong also said another man was injured when he tried to help the family.
“Somebody did step in to try and help that was close by,” Mr Tong told reporters at the scene.
“I think he tried his best to get to the car.”
As a result the man had to be taken to hospital and treated for minor burns to his upper body and face.
— Lexy Hamilton-Smith (@LexyHS1) February 18, 2020
Mr Tong said the situation was very confronting for the first ambulance crews that arrived on the scene.
“We did all we could but it was confronting. The first couple of crews that got to the scene were confronted with some deceased people,” he told reporters.
“They quickly moved on to the people that needed treatment.”
The fire has now been extinguished and police have launched an investigation into the incident.
Mr Thompson said the officers who attended the scene were being supported by police human services.
“Our people are well trained. They’ll put that behind them in the short-term. And deal with the investigation at hand. And we will make sure that their welfare is looked after into the future,” he said.