‘He was engulfed in flames’ – witnesses express shock at seeing man on fire in Lowestoft town centre
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Shocked onlookers described their horror after a man was “engulfed in flames” in a busy part of Lowestoft town centre.
The man, believed to be in his 50s, is understood to have set himself on fire at about 5.10pm yesterday, as many people were leaving work. He suffered extensive burns.
Staff from shops nearby rushed to the man’s aid and covered him in a coat, before fire extinguishers were used to put out the flames.
At least 10 police cars, two fire crews and ambulances were on the scene in London Road North – bringing the town centre to a standstill.
Parts of the town centre, and the Britten Shopping Centre, were cordoned off for more than two hours.
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The man was treated at the scene for about 50 minutes before being taken in an ambulance to the awaiting East Anglian Air Ambulance that had landed on the Clapham Road car park.
He was then flown to the specialist burns unit at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, where he remained last night.
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A Suffolk police spokesman said a man was receiving treatment and he had sustained injuries to the lower half of his body. A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said the man was “conscious and breathing”.
The incident, which happened in the town centre near to New Look and the M&S store was described by witnesses as shocking.
Jo McMurray, the manager at the Ryman stationery store in London Road North heard screams for help, and then banging as she left the shop and went outside – to discover the man “completely engulfed in fire.”
She said: “It looked like there was a rug on fire, and then I saw it was a human.
“I immediately called for my staff to ring 999 – it was shocking.”
Mrs McMurray said: “He was engulfed in flames, I have never seen anything like it. How he survived it I do not know. People who saw it were in shock, a lady was crying – it was awful.
“He was screaming, it was harrowing. The poor man was in a right state. I tried to reassure him that the ambulance were on their way,” Mrs McMurray said.
“I have never seen something like that – I thought it was a suicide bomber – it was horrific.”
Liam Bowen, 18, a shop assistant at SportsDirect in London Road North, said: “It literally brought the town to standstill.
“I had the town security radio on me and the call came out for police, fire and ambulance service to attend the town centre, near to M&S, as someone had set themselves on fire.
“The assistant manager and myself were among the first on the scene – it was horrible.”
Staff at shops nearby raced to the man’s aid, with workers quickly covering the man in a coat before other stores brought out fire extinguishers to put the flames out.
Last night, Lowestoft town mayor, Stephen Ardley, said: “Its a huge tragedy that unfolded completely unexpectedly. Obviously there will be an investigation carried out.”
Mr Ardley added: “I would like to thank that the people who rushed to his assistance and hopefully it goes some way to saving his life.”
Suffolk Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward. Call 101 and quote incident number 251.