‘Ripped away in minutes’: Mum bares scars of fatal blaze
In her raw state of grief Tanyka Ford searches her mind for someone to blame as she struggles with the enormity of losing her two baby daughters in a fire that engulfed their home.
The scars on her forearms from smashing through windows are still visible three weeks on but pale in comparison to the crushing blame she heaps on herself for failing to save her identical monoamniotic (MCMA) twins, Aisha and Lailani, 3.
"They were my miracle babies, after fifteen miscarriages I was told I could never medically carry," the former bakery worker said.
"Unless you've been a mother of twins you cannot describe what it's like to have two babies kicking away in your stomach at the same time. I will forever bear the stretch marks they gave me.
"I tried to get in, the fire was too strong, I tried, I don't know who to blame, what else we could have done, to save them.
"It still doesn't seem real, they were with me 24-seven, I never left them for a second, I never got babysitters, I never went out… but they were ripped away from me in minutes.
"It's a nightmare you try to process but you can't.
"Everyone asks how you are but I don't know… there are no words to describe it; it's like when someone breaks up with you and you feel empty and broken but worse, it's like something is missing."
In her first interview, the mother of four says she tormented with constant reminders of her boisterous daughters who she laid to rest in a pink double casket at Tumut Lawn Cemetery in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains yesterday.
Steeling herself before the funeral congregation, she sang her daughters one last song, Sarah McLachlan's Arms of An Angel, as they were lowered into the ground.
Speaking in hushed tones, it is clear she is struggling to make sense of the harrowing events of May 18.
A post mortem has revealed the sisters died in a tragic inferno that started when they playfully removed a protective grill from the wood fireplace and set light to highly inflammable material in the family home.
Ms Ford, 29, stepped outside to toss away a burning pillow they had been playing with when she was locked out with her six-year-old son, Dominick.
She was unable to get into the house through the back door that was forced shut by the sheer force of the blaze which tore through the home within minutes.
Screaming, she attempted to smash through the front door to get to her crying babies but it was bolted from within.
Emergency crews smashed through the house and pulled the sisters from the blaze.
They had succumbed to smoke and were found, holding hands, in a rear bedroom.
"I've got the scars from when I had them, scars from trying to save them," Ms Ford said.
"The nightmares used to start when you slept, now they come when you're awake, you can see it all around, their smiles, their clothes, their giggles. And then there are birthdays, theirs is the 6 of Feb. It will never go away.
"I'm composing myself to say goodbye. I worry about Dominick, he was locked out with me and saw it, he's been having tantrums, I hope with counselling he'll get better.
"I'll get counselling after the funeral, I'm too afraid that once I let go it won't stop."
Pink balloons bearing the word princess were released into the sky at the girls' funeral yesterday.
Ms Ford, 29, recalls defying strong medical advice to give birth to the twins born sharing the same placenta and embryonic sack.
"I could only tell them apart through the different dummies they had from birth," she said.
"I had the option to remove one to give the other a chance, one was smaller, but it wasn't an option, I kept them both, they were born seven minutes apart, naturally, at 30 weeks.
"They were my rock, my everything, the most mischievous bubbly little tomboys.
"They loved it when I sang to them, the last thing I can do for them is sing them one last lullaby."
Originally published as 'Ripped away in minutes': Batlow mum bares scars of fatal blaze