The parents of a former DUP MLA have died following a house fire in Bangor.
Posting on social media, independent unionist Alex Easton confirmed that his mother Ann and father Alec, who are aged in their 80s, died on Monday morning.
The fire broke out at the couple's home in the Dellmount Park area of the town at about 8.45am. A PSNI spokesperson confirmed they were treated for injuries but both died at the scene.
"I can’t believe I am having to say this but both my Mum and Dad have passed away," the North Down politician said.
"I don’t know what to say, but I would ask that you give myself and my family time to process things and respect our privacy as we grieve."
PSNI Superintendent McDowell said: “This sad news will come as a huge shock to the local community and our thoughts are with their loved ones at this difficult time. "An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire and our officers have been in the area conducting enquiries.
"We would appeal to anyone with information they believe may assist our investigation to call us.“
Tributes have been paid to Mr Easton's parents and condolences have also been extended to the politician and his family.
DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP said: “I have spoken to Alex earlier today and expressed my sympathies to him at this time of unimaginable grief and to assure him of our prayerful support.
"The thoughts of everyone within the DUP are with him and the wider family as they struggle to take in this enormous loss."
"On behalf of the Officers and Members of Bangor Protestant Boys FB," one Twitter user said.
"We would like to pass our sincere condolences to Alex Easton MLA and the extended family on the passing of his mother and father."
Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson said: "Deepest sympathy to Alex Easton MLA who has tragically lost both of his parents in a house fire.
"Dreadful news which no one should ever have to face."
TUV leader Jim Allister said: “Words are inadequate at a time such as this. To lose both one’s parents in such horrific circumstances is unimaginable.
"If those outside the family feel their weakness when asked to comment on such a shattering blow I can only imagine how Alex is coming to terms with this news.
“I extend my heartfelt sympathy to him and his family. Like countless others across Northern Ireland I will remember them in my prayers in the coming days.”
In a statement, an NIFRS spokesperson confirmed firefighters were called to the house in the Dellmount Park area of Bangor at 8.44am on Monday morning.
They said: “5 Fire Appliances and 19 Firefighters attended the incident. There are no further details at this time.”
The Ambulance Service also despatched a Rapid Response Paramedic and three Emergency Crews following reports of a fire.
A spokesperson for the NIAS said: "Emergency Ambulance Control also tasked the Charity Air Ambulance with HEMS crew on board to attend.
"Following assessment and initial treatment, no patients were taken from the scene."
Alex Easton left the DUP in July 2021, following disagreements over the party's leadership.
He was re-elected as an independent candidate in the 2022 Assembly election.
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