Friends and family of a 17-year-old boy who died in a Cwmbran house fire in 1996 organised a 40th birthday party in his memory. Lee Daniels passed away in a tragic fire caused by a chip pan. Last night they gathered at St Joseph’s Social Club in St Dials to share memories of him.
Ceri Williams, 39, was one of Lee’s best mates and was out with him on the night of the fire.
She said: “The idea for a party came from Lee’s dad’s partner Christine and his sister Rhiannon. They contacted me and asked if I would get all of Lee’s friends together for a surprise for his dad, Chris, to mark what would have been Lee’s 40th Birthday. I had an overwhelming response from everybody.
“After one week of contacting people and the word being spread around I booked the St Joseph’s Social Club on Blenheim Road, which was quite fitting been as we all grew up in that area.
“Lee absolutely loved Arsenal and he also loved basketball, he was a very tall boy. He loved Tupac Shakur and rave music. We used to all sneak to raves from the age of about 14 onwards. Lee was selfless and would literally do anything for you. He was funny, caring and very friendly.
“Lee had a whole range of friends, boys and girls. He was a proper friend who was always there for you and is sadly missed by everyone who knew him. The night Lee died we had all been in Ritzy’s in Newport partying as you did back then when you discovered night clubs.
“At the end of the night some of the boys were going to a house party but Lee decided to go home instead. When he got home to Shelley Green in St Dials he put the chip pan on to cook some food, fell asleep on the sofa and the house set on fire.
“It did not take long for the word to spread. I remember it being really early in the morning and my dad called a friend’s house that I was staying at to say that Lee was dead and my friends were trying to call me. I can remember that we all congregated at the Pantry Shop in Greenmeadow. It was absolutely devastating. The day Lee died left a massive hole in our friendship group and our lives. He will never be forgotten.
“The party was a nice surprise for his dad. He thought he was coming to my 40th birthday party. His mum, Julie, also came to the party.”
Chris, Lee’s dad, said: “I can’t believe it. Unbelievable. I honestly didn’t have a clue, not a clue it was going to happen tonight. Fantastic, really fantastic. I was gobsmacked. I thought I was coming here for Ceri’s birthday. I didn’t have a clue. I knew it was his birthday tomorrow but I celebrate it in my own little way you know. Tonight I’ve been chatting to his mates and as I’ve spoken to them I’ve remembered them. I can’t remember all the names, that comes with old age you know. But yes, I just remember the faces, it’s great that they’ve all showed up, still showing him a bit of respect. Lovely, it really is nice. I’m going to cry now. “
Lee played in Fairwater Comprehensive School’s under 13 football team and won the Cyril Rogers Cup after beating teams across Wales. They went on to represent Britain in an international competition in Florida.
His dad said: “They went to America for two weeks. I don’t think they did very well in the tournament but they wiped the floor with everybody over here. They were a good footballing side back in the day.”
He joked: “Lee was an Arsenal fan and I’m a Manchester United fan but I think he did it deliberately, just to not follow me, to do his own thing. I suppose somebody has got to support them.”
Lee would have turned 40 on Saturday 21 September 2019.