Jessica Donnelly
Jessica Donnelly Contributed

Mother is still grieving for 'Butterfly Jess'

TODAY is a sad anniversary for Linda Donnelly.

It's 20 years since her daughter Jessica and three others lost their lives in a devastating house fire on July 26, 1998, in a house on the corner of what is now Lateen Lane and Fletcher Street in Byron Bay.

Many police and emergency service personnel who attended the incident were also affected.

Ms Donnelly still finds it hard to talk about the night her 14-year-old daughter along with Roseanna Chambers, 16, Jessica Healy, 16, and Scott Bridge, 21, died.

She said the whole town supported the grieving families through the ordeal.

"The whole town were there for us. These children were locals and we still have no answer as to the cause of the fire, even after all these years, the fire inquiry was inconclusive," she said.

"Jessica's funeral stopped the traffic. Everyone walked through the town as hundreds threw flowers on the hearse. The police formed an escort and hund- reds walked for the kids.

"Jess went to Byron High and the students lined the streets for the students lost that terrible night."

Ms Donnelly said her daughter was well known to all as 'Byron Jess' or 'Butterfly Jess'.

"She was a true Byron character and was well known for her Gothic dress, fire twirling and playing guitar in the top park," she said.

"Living these 20 years without her has taken a huge toll on our family but I like to think I still glimpse her in Byron. She had a smile for everyone and always a kind word. She was an old soul but her life was tragically taken from us.

"Her funeral was a testament to how well the town knew my girl."



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