Fatal house fire: Search for missing person called off

PUBLISHED: 16:22 11 December 2009 | UPDATED: 22:04 31 May 2010

THE SEARCH to establish whether a third person has died in a house fire in Saffron Walden has been called off until Saturday morning. Essex fire and rescue teams called off the search at 4pm on Friday evening. So far a third body has not been discovered f

THE SEARCH to establish whether a third person has died in a house fire in Saffron Walden has been called off until Saturday morning.

Essex fire and rescue teams called off the search at 4pm on Friday evening. So far a third body has not been discovered following the fire which has already claimed the lives of two pensioners.

A 70-year-old man and an 80-year-old woman have been confirmed dead following the blaze at the semi-detached property in Mill Lane.

It was believed that the third person, thought to be a relative, may have also been in the property.

Fire crews from Saffron Walden, Newport and Thaxted were called to the scene at 8.40am this morning.

Gas leak

A fire service spokesman said the first floor of the semi-detached house was "well alight" on arrival but the fire then spread to the roof of the two-storey building, while smoke damage ripped through neighbouring properties. As many as 10 nearby properties were evacuated.

A gas leak hampered the search and crews were withdrawn from the building as it was structurally unsafe. Mill Lane and parts of adjacent Ashdon Road were blocked off to the pedestrians and motorists.

ECFRS' Urban Search and Rescue team, mobilised from Lexden, worked to make the building safe for crews to go back inside. The building was deemed safe shortly before 2.30pm.

However, the search took several hours as firefighters had to sift through "considerable debris" in the final room, according to senior divisional officer Julian Ashley.

"Horrific way to go"

Following the dramatic morning residents have said that they are "shocked" by what has happened.

Neighbour, Peter Watson, 77, said: "I heard sirens and didn't really realise what was going on at first so I carried on eating my breakfast. But when the fire engine pulled onto our street I came outside and saw really thick black smoke pouring out of number 15. It was very foggy so it was hard to tell what was happening."

Upon hearing that people had died inside he added: "I am in a state of complete shock, going in such a way is horrific thing to happen. I know they were an elderly couple so it is very sad. I moved here in 1963 and have never seen anything like this."

A joint police and fire service investigation will be carried out to establish the cause of the fire.


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