KUALA LUMPUR - He was watching television upstairs when he heard loud pops, but dismissed them as firecrackers.
Little did Shamsul Ng Abdullah, 59, know that an inferno was raging in the living room downstairs of his house in Taman Wangsa Permai in Kepong.
By the time he realised what was happening, the fire had trapped his daughter Lam Yan Yi, 7, his granddaughter Ng Zi Xuan, 10, and his Cambodian maid Soh Srey, 29.
Sungai Buloh Fire chief Mohamed Sabri A. Shamsudeen said Shamsul had tried to reach the children who were in an upstairs bedroom at the back of the house, but the flames blocked him.
"He had no choice but to jump out the balcony, injuring himself," Mohamed Sabri said when met at the scene Tuesday.
Shamsul's 80-year-old mother Wong Ah Yin, who was in the bedroom near the kitchen downstairs, was pulled to safety by his wife, Lam Chooi Lai, 37, who had seen the flames when returning home.
Mohamed Sabri said firefighters had to battle their way through the blaze after gaining access to the second floor via a neighbour's balcony.
"We tried to go in to save them, but the fire was too strong.
"By the time we got through, the three were found collapsed at the doorway of one of the bedrooms," he said.
He said there were no burns on them but they were not breathing.
The three victims were rushed to Hospital Sungai Buloh but were later pronounced dead.
Mohamad Sabri said they most likely died of smoke inhalation.
Selangor Fire and Rescue Department fire forensics assistant director Zakaria Muhd said the cause of the fire was still under investigation but it was clear that it started in the living room.
"At the moment it looks like an electrical fire but we have to do a full investigation first," he said.
Zakaria said the incident was similar to the fire in Subang Jaya last week that claimed the lives of four members of a family.