An animal lover died after running into his burning home to rescue his cat.
Neighbours described Oliver Rippinghaus, 56, from the town of Lohmar, in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, as a “nice, quiet guy – and a great animal lover”, according to local media.
He reportedly ran into his burning home to rescue his beloved cat Lilly after the blaze broke out on the evening of Wednesday, 8th March, shortly before 3am.
Neither Oliver nor Lilly survived the blaze, with an unnamed neighbour’s daughter telling local media: “I was sleeping, then heard screams and glass breaking. Then I woke my parents, and we saw the house on fire.”
The neighbours, a family of three, ran outside, with the girl’s mother, also unnamed, saying: “Oliver’s wife Sandra came up to me, wrapped in a blanket, screaming: ‘Oliver has gone back in because of the cat.’ I told her you aren’t following him, and held her so she wouldn’t get any stupid ideas.”
That’s when Oliver’s brother-in-law, who lives across the street, reportedly went right through the front door and called out: “Oliver, Oliver come out!”
But the neighbour, in tears, said: “But he didn’t get an answer anymore.”
The neighbour added: “Lilly was a shy animal. She was probably curled up in a corner.”
The fire had reportedly spread fast and had cut off Oliver’s way out, with rescue workers eventually finding him on an upper floor with severe burn injuries. They tried to revive him but were unsuccessful.
He was declared dead at the scene.
A neighbour said that Oliver “was quiet, a nice guy and a big animal lover.”
They added that he had built and set up nesting sites for birds around the house.
Oliver and Sandra, 54, did not have children, and Lilly was reportedly the couple’s favourite pet.
A friend of the couple is quoted in local media saying: “They both loved Lilly like their own child. But the fact that Oliver has to lose his life because of her is tragic.”
Police have estimated the damage to the building to be in the region of EUR 400,000 (GBP 355,000).
Oliver’s wife was looked after by pastors and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, according to local media.
Investigators are now working to determine the cause of the blaze.