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Woman speaks of dramatic Regent’s Canal boat blaze rescue

12:40 22 May 2013

Tracey Corkish with the crutch that helped save a man

Tracey Corkish with the crutch that helped save a man's life Pic: Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

A woman has spoken of how she and two men helped rescue a man from a burning canal boat.

Witnesses spoke of “pandemonium” as the man aboard the Regent’s Canal narrow boat screamed for help from passers-by as the cabin was engulfed by flames.

The rescuers pulled him out of the boat before putting him in the water and dragging him to safety.

He was taken to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel with severe burns to his hands after the blaze at about 5am on Monday.

About 50 residents were evacuated from a nearby block of flats because the emergency services feared gas aboard the boat might explode.

Rescuer Tracey Corkish, 41, of nearby City Garden Row, was passing by when she and her friend Terry saw the flames.

She said: “The guy inside was screaming. We went round the back and he couldn’t get out, so we smashed the window.

“His hands were both bright red. It looked like he was holding a tissue or something. We went in to grab him and that’s when I realised it was his skin.

“It just melted from his hands. He must have tried to put the fire out with his hands.”

Melting

The pair then pulled him out by his clothes and put him in the water.

A third man then ran from a nearby flat and the three rescuers used Tracey’s crutch to pull the man from the water to safety onto another boat.

Tracey added: “It was horrible. It just seemed to go on forever.”

Peter Flack, whose flat in Dame Street overlooked the fire, said: “There was a girl and a man. I don’t know where they came from, but they got him off. I think they saved his life.

“You could just hear the man shouting and screaming ‘get me off, get me out of here, quick, quick’. It was pandemonium really.”

He added: “The windows started cracking. You could smell the fibreglass melting and everything.”

Four fire crews from Clerkenwell, Islington, Shoreditch and Millwall were called at 5.32am and firefighters had the flames under control just over an hour later.

London Ambulance Service said two crews were sent and the man, in his 30s, was treated for burns to his hands before being taken to hospital.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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The fire was apparently started by a gas explosion and left 19 people injured, four critically. Two people remain unaccounted for.

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