The mother was away just for an hour and came back to find her life was changed forever.
It was a night when Nicole Mulligan decided to make a quick run to the supermarket to get some items for the next day's breakfast. All four of her children were tucked into bed, and she was only gone for an hour. But that one hour changed her life completely as when she returned, her house was on fire and her two children, 8-year-old Brayden and nine-month-old Arianna, were dead.
"I lost two babies in one night and I blame myself because I wasn’t there," Nicole told Stuff. "I was shopping and I should’ve been there... I feel like I could’ve saved them."
After she finished shopping and got back to her street, she saw some commotion happening and minutes later, she was told that her son Brayden was in the ambulance.
"I just thought he was hurt, and then she said, 'I’m sorry, but he’s dead.' I just screamed. Then she said, 'Your daughter is still in the house, she didn’t make it.' I will always remember those words ... it still feels like a nightmare," the grieving mother said. Nicole's other two children, six-year-old Lucas and two-year-old Brianna, safely made it out of the fire.
While she was away shopping, Nicole's partner, Des Cooke heard the fire alarm from the living room and dashed through the house, finding a red glow coming from baby Arianna's room.
He tried to open the door and save his baby girl but a fireball pushed him against the wall opposite the room, according to The Sun.
"He went to open the bedroom door and this big ball of fire just whacked him into the wall. He said he didn’t even hear her cry, she was already gone," Nicole told The Stuff. "[The fire] came from behind the door, exactly where the heater was."
Then, Des immediately woke up the rest of the children and made their way outside the house. It was only once Des was outside that he realized that Brayden had not made it out like he thought he did.
With the neighbors accompanying him, Des went back inside but the heavy smoke made it extremely difficult for them to make their way around the house.
Later, Brayden's body was found right outside Arianna's bedroom, and it is believed that the boy tried to save his baby sister but could not make it.
Nicole informed Brayden's grandparents, Trevor and Angela Martin, about what happened, after which Angela called her son, Shaun Gibson who was Brayden's biological father.
"I heard his voice and I just started howling on the phone and I had to hand the phone to my husband," Angela told Stuff.
Recalling the moments they spent at the hospital, Angela said, "I saw Brayden and he looked so peaceful, he really looked like he was sleeping."
Des, who suffered injuries from running back into the burning house, spoke to Brayden's father and grandparents. "He walked into the room and just said, ‘I tried so hard, I’m so sorry, I tried,'" Angela recalled.
Nicole, who is struggling to come to terms with what happened, mentioned that it wouldn't be surprising if Brayden really went to his baby sister's room to try and save her. Angela also said, "He knew he was really loved. He protected his brothers and sisters as best he could, he doted over his two baby sisters."
A fundraising page was set up for the grieving family on Givealittle which said, "Nicole, Des and their two surviving children, 6-year-old Lucas and 2-year-old Brianna, face the reality of losing their children, siblings, home and possessions, all in one night. Your donations will help the family of Brayden and Arianna cover funeral costs and help them get back on their feet without the financial burden that will accompany this horrific loss."