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Hero grandfather, 71, dies after helping his daughter and grandchildren escape deadly house fire

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A 71-year-old grandfather has died after trying to help his daughter and her two young children escape a house fire. 

Gary Van Bree was found dead inside an Endeavour Hills home in Melbourne after the blaze broke out shortly before 10pm on Saturday.

He died trying to escape with his daughter Natalie, and her two children, four-year-old Wyatt and Kristina, seven, neighbour Sophea Mutsaers said.

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71-year-old grandfather Gary Van Bree (pictured) has died after trying to help his daughter and her two young children escape a house fire

71-year-old grandfather Gary Van Bree (pictured) has died after trying to help his daughter and her two young children escape a house fire

‘The kids were in bed. They didn’t have any working smoke alarms in the house and Natalie got up, she smelt smoke,’ Ms Mutsaers told AAP.

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‘[Gary] was still in the house and everyone presumed that he was on his way out and he never got out.

‘He made sure Kristina got out and Kristina thought he was behind her but he must have succumbed to the smoke.

‘He was yelling at Kristina to get out of the house …she went back for him and he told her to get out.’

The flames were about 20 metres  high and the blaze is thought to have started in the fireplace, Ms Mutsaers said.

Mr Van Bree had escaped the house after he thought his granddaughter had followed him but went back inside when he realised she wasn’t, the Herald Sun reported.

Ms Mutsaers said he had been suffering from ‘a lot of health issues’ at the time, including cancer. 

A GoFundMe page has been set up to support Mr Van Bree’s shattered family, left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Gary Van Bree was found dead inside an Endeavour Hills home (pictured) in Melbourne after the blaze broke out shortly before 10pm on Saturday
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Gary Van Bree was found dead inside an Endeavour Hills home (pictured) in Melbourne after the blaze broke out shortly before 10pm on Saturday

‘It’s just devastating, you don’t expect it to happen in your own neighbourhood,’ Ms Mutsaers said.

‘I’ve pretty much told [Natalie] we’ll take care of the funeral cost. I’m hoping the community will get behind us.’

Kristina was taken to Dandenong Hospital for an assessment but has since been discharged.

The cause of the blaze is being investigated.

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