VIDEO and PICTURES: Heartbreak for watersports hero as fire destroys Rock building
This is all that is left of a water sports building in Rock, North Cornwall following a devastating fire yesterday.
More than 40 firefighters from Wadebridge, Delabole, Bodmin and St Austell, tackled the blaze, which is being treated as suspicious and was reported to have started shortly before 2.45am.
The wooden building – which is used to store sailing equipment, and has changing rooms and two receptions – was described as "completely destroyed" by an eyewitness, with a fire chief saying it may now have to be demolished.
It is believed to provide a home to the Camel School of Sailing and Camel Ski School, which is run by Charlie Toogood, who was labelled a 'hero' after he leapt aboard a runaway speedboat which killed BSkyB executive Nick Milligan and his eight-year-old daughter Emily when it struck them in the water, in May.
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Devon & Cornwall Police confirmed yesterday that the cause of the fire was being treated as suspicious. Detective Inspector Tony Blatchford said: "The building has been severely damaged. Thankfully there was no-one inside at the time otherwise we could have been dealing with an even more tragic outcome."
The fire was so extensive at one point that firefighters had to close nearby Rock Road.
Group fire officer Mark Hewitt said that at least half the building was severely damaged but he hoped that although it was "significant", some of the equipment would be saved.
He said: "We have protected and saved some of the local businesses and been able to salvage some of their equipment. The crews responded very quickly and worked hard to save equipment within the two businesses."
The 25 x 8 metre structure is used to store sailing equipment such as wet suits, life jackets and sails, and has changing rooms and two receptions inside.
An eyewitness, who wished not to be named, said: "The building is completely destroyed. You can see all the timber and the burnt sides. The entire roof has caved in.It is devastating. This is their main season. They teach water sports at the centre."
Mr Toogood was hailed a hero in May after he daringly leapt aboard a runaway speedboat that had been driven by Mr Milligan and his family off Padstow before they were thrown in the water. Mr Milligan, 51, and his daughter Emily, eight, were both killed in the incident. His wife, Victoria, and son Kit, four, were both seriously injured, while their daughters, Amber and Olivia, received minor injuries.
Following the incident, Mr Toogood, who could not be contacted yesterday, said that there were many 'heroes' on the day.
Police have appealed for witnesses to call them on 101 quoting log 84 of 25/07/13 or Crimsteoppers anonymously on 0800 with information.