Witnesses describe ’20ft flames’ when canal boat went up in smoke

A CANAL boat went up in flames after a fire broke out aboard, leaving it a burnt out wreck.

People living on neighbouring boats raised the alarm after spotting the 20ft flames on the Kennet and Avon Canal at Sells Green near Seend on Monday night.

Investigations are continuing to decide as to how the fire started on the boat, owned by Gary Cooper.

One canal boater, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Gary had his two children there on Sunday and everything appeared to be normal. But on Monday evening he was shouting.

“I went to his boat to remonstrate with him because my wife works and she couldn’t get to sleep. When I got there, I could see flames.

“The flames were 20ft high up to the trees and the fire had gone through the boat. It went up in two minutes.”

Another woman, whose canal boat was moored next to the boat, said she was alerted by the man who went to remonstrate with the owner, adding: “We had to move ours into the middle of the canal out of the way.

“Everything seemed all right when we saw Gary with his children on Sunday afternoon. He was playing music and everything was okay.

“We went down to the waste bins at 7.30pm on Monday and it was all quiet. The next-door boat owner woke us up at 9.30pm to say the boat was on fire.

“It’s a great shame really because it was a beautiful boat. Now it’s all burnt out and the children’s bikes are destroyed.

“The fire service were amazing. They got here so quickly but the boat went up in flames quickly. It was really scary.”

Police closed the canal footpath at 10.05pm.

The burnt-out boat, named Page, was painted in purple and grey with a skull on the side and was described by other boaters as “beautiful”.

It is understood there was no-one on board when it went up in flames.

Another canal boater, Ian Conner-Lewis said: “I’m on a boat just 200 yards from the fire. I go up and down the canal so I knew about it as soon as it happened.

The alarm is thought to have been raised by campers on the nearby Devizes Camping and Caravanning Club site on the other side of the hedge from the canal.

Lee Brain, area operations manager for the Canal & River Trust, based in Devizes, said under CRT rules, Mr Cooper has to move the boat within 14 days.

In a good condition, the burnt-out narrowboat would be worth between £60,000 and £70,000.

A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: “Our investigation is ongoing and anyone who can assist should call Central CID on 101, quoting log 392. Alternatively you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.”

This is Wiltshire


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