Passers-by save pub fire family

By James MortlockA FAMILY were saved from choking to death on acrid fumes, thanks to passers-by who spotted smoke billowing from their burning pub.Bobby Fleming, his daughter Sam and two-year-old granddaughter Jessee would have died if it had not been for the swift action of newspaper delivery team Georgina and David Prestwich and milkman Chris Webb.

By James Mortlock

A FAMILY were saved from choking to death on acrid fumes, thanks to passers-by who spotted smoke billowing from their burning pub.

Bobby Fleming, his daughter Sam and two-year-old granddaughter Jessee would have died if it had not been for the swift action of newspaper delivery team Georgina and David Prestwich and milkman Chris Webb.

They spotted a fire had broken out in the early hours of yesterday at the Minden Rose pub in Bury St Edmunds and started making as much noise as they could to alert the occupants.

They managed to rouse Miss Fleming, who shouted to rouse the rest of her family and managed to get to a first-floor balcony with her daughter before they were helped down on ladders by Mr and Mrs Prestwich.

Family friend Grant Duff, who was staying at the pub, also escaped by using a ladder propped up against a window by the delivery team.

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But pub landlord Mr Fleming, 45, was carried unconscious by firefighters through a first-floor window after he collapsed as he desperately searched for the rest of his family.

He was taken to the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds where he was still being treated last night. He is expected to return home today.

Dwayne Balfour, Mr Fleming's son-in-law, said without the heroic action of the rescuers, his family would have died.

"They played a massive part. We would all like to thank them for what they did. Without them there would definitely have been fatalities here today. These people are heroes," he added.

"My father-in-law was totally confused by the smoke. He was crawling around looking for the others and was overcome. I think he was very lucky to get out and he owes a lot to the people who raised the alarm."

Miss Fleming, 23, said the first she had known of the fire had been hearing shouts from the ground below her bedroom window.

"I was totally out of it when I heard these screams and I then smelled the smoke. All I could think about was getting to Jessee, who was in the next room along, and getting her out," she added.

"We were very lucky – I'm just glad it wasn't earlier when there would have been even fewer people around to help us. I'm just relieved everyone is okay."

Mrs Prestwich said she had spotted the smoke as she and her husband began their morning rounds.

"We knew there must be people inside, so we just started banging and shouting and making as much noise as we could," she added.

"We were just about to try to find something to break a window with and two people appeared in the upstairs windows."

Mr Prestwich said they had then used ladders kept at the rear of the pub to bring three of the victims to safety, but could not get past the choking smoke to help Mr Fleming.

Mr Webb said he had been stuck at the temporary traffic lights in Newmarket Road as he began his morning milk round when he glanced over to the pub and saw smoke.

"I went over to try to alert the people inside. The delivery people then arrived and we managed to wake the people up," he recalled.

"I think we got there just in time. They were very lucky to get out – I came away with my eyes stinging and watering and I wasn't in the pub at all. It must have been awful in there."

Assistant Divisional Officer Pat Dacey praised the Prestwicks and Mr Webb for raising the alarm.

"The fire started in a boiler room due to an electrical fault and quickly became quite severe – spreading into the roof and generating a huge amount of smoke. By waking up the family, they played a crucial part in the rescue," he said.

Mr Dacey added the pub had been severely smoke-damaged and the pitched roof above the boiler room and saloon bar would have to be replaced.

No-one from Greene King, which owns the pub, was available for comment yesterday

james.mortlock@eadt.co.uk

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