Tributes pour in for flat fire victim

A FATHER who died following a flat fire in a Suffolk town has been described as “the nicest bloke you will ever meet”.

Mark McGowan is believed to have been staying at his mother’s flat in Mill Park Gardens, Mildenhall, when the blaze claimed his life in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Neighbours, friends and colleagues of the 34-year-old, who worked at Marshall Vehicle Engineering at Mildenhall Industrial Estate, have paid tribute to him.

Michael Girod, who worked with Mr McGowan and had known him for 20 years, said he had been drinking with him in the White Hart pub in Mildenhall’s High Street - a favourite haunt of Mr McGowan’s - the evening before he died.

The 21-year-old said: “He was the nicest bloke you will ever meet. He will never say a bad word about anyone. I was about to move into a house with him.”

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Another friend added: “Everyone knew him and got on with him,” he said. “I don’t know of anyone who had a bad word to say about him. He always helped people out when he could.”

Landlord of the White Hart, Michael Rogers, said Mr McGowan had worked in various pubs in the town, including the White Hart and the Tiger’s Head.

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He said: “He was quite friendly. He liked to have a laugh and a drink.”

He added: “Most people were quite shocked because they would have seen him last night. He was here last night.”

Work colleagues of Mr McGowan’s were informed of his death yesterday morning.

Terry Holloway, group support executive for The Marshall Group of Companies, said he was part of a small team that carried out phosphate plating work for military vehicles.

“He worked for the company for three years,” he said. “He was a very popular employee and very well-liked man and the team he worked with have taken it very hard.

“We as a company are very, very saddened by the loss.”

Neighbours of Mr McGowan’s, best-friends Nikita Gillentine and Chelsy Newbon, said they were shocked and shaken by the tragedy, adding how it was lucky the fire did not spread.

Miss Gillentine, 23, who used to work with him at the Tiger’s Head, said: “I cried my heart out. He was a lovely bloke and good dad.”

She added: “I will miss him, but the family will always be in my heart.”

Paul Goodman, station manager at Bury St Edmunds Fire Station, said a resident in the flat above had alerted the fire service shortly after 3.30am after their smoke alarm sounded.

Appliances from Mildenhall and Newmarket attended the scene, with the Mildenhall crew forcing entry into the ground floor flat.

Mr McGowan - the only occupant in the flat at the time - was handed over to the ambulance service, but they were unable to resuscitate him.

Mr Goodman said: “If anyone is affected by this or requires any fire safety advice for the home they should contact Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service on 01473 260588.”

It took the 20 or so firefighters about an hour to put the blaze out. A joint fire and police investigation has been carried out.

A police spokeswoman said Mr McGowan’s death is not being treated as suspicious, but remains unexplained, adding that a post-mortem examination would be carried out in due course and that the coroner had been notified.

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