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Fears there may be second body in Torquay 'volcano' death blaze house

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 13, 2014

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The man who died in the 'savage' Ellacombe fire has been named as 26-year-old Torquay chef Jason Bowerman.

Police say fears a second person may have died in the fire cannot be totally ruled out because the wrecked building in Dunmere Road, Ellacombe, is too unsafe to search.

It is believed two dogs may have also died in the inferno, which neighbours described as 'like a volcano'.

The road remains closed and a police cordon and guard are still in place until police and fire investigators are able to gain access to search the scene.

The house was already well alight when fire crews were called. They fought the blaze for almost five hours. Two fire engines, one from Torquay and one from Paignton, were sent, but due to the amount of calls received, a further fire engine from Torquay was also dispatched.

Torquay firefighter Tony Bevan, who was in charge of the aerial platform, said: "Because of the position of the house and the really high wind the fire was well developed when we got there.

"We normally see fire and smoke coming out of the roof, but in this case the whole roof had opened up and we had flames and material coming out through the roof and falling down on us.

"I would describe the fire as savage. Because of the wind direction we had real concerns about it developing."

Witnesses described the burning house as resembling a 'volcano' with debris flying across the street and flames shooting into the air.

Tributes have been paid to Jason, who worked at the Willow Tree pub at The Willows. He lived at the house with his Polish girlfriend and another Polish female friend and their two dogs.

A community appeal has started to help the two women, who were visiting family at home in Poland at the time of the fire.

Two young men who were first at the scene have been praised by police for their heroic actions. They suffered minor cuts and burns and the effects of smoke inhalation as they braved exploding roof tiles in their attempts to reach the victim and evacuate neighbouring homes.

Stephen Mitchell, 21, and James Boitoult, 18, both believe they saw a second person at a bedroom window. One theory is it may have been the victim, who managed to get downstairs before being overcome by smoke.

Det Insp Kay Chapman said: "Potentially there could be another person, but we don't believe so and we won't know until we get in there. We have carried out investigations and there should not have been anybody else in the house.

"We will carry out a proper investigation once it's safe to get in there."

She confirmed 'potentially' two pet dogs are still in the burnt out wreck.

She praised the two young heroes, saying: "These are tragic circumstances, but the two young men do deserve our praise because they have done a fantastic job. Their selfless actions have potentially saved lives."

Stephen, an insurance broker, who was treated in hospital for smoke inhalation, said: "It turned out we both knew Jason Bowerman. It has been very emotional."

He told how the drama unfolded in the early hours of Sunday: "I literally live around the corner in Kenwyn Road. James and I had been out seeing friends and we were driving home at about 5.05am. There was smoke everywhere and we drove around to find out where it was coming from.

"We dialled 999 and James ran around the side and noticed someone was inside the building at the back bedroom window. There is some confusion about whether there is a second person still in there.

"I noticed lights on in the house next door and I could see the flames were spreading across. We got the woman out of there while there were tiles popping off everywhere. I wrapped her up in my jacket and put her in my car to keep her safe from the slates flying off.

"James managed to get a rock and smashed the glass panel to open the outer door into the porch. That was when the police car turned up and an off-duty policeman.

"I have minor burns on my back and holes all over my T-shirt which look like bullet holes."

James Boitoult, 18, who works at his parents' Kingskerwell computer company, said: "I saw somebody at the back of the house. The police don't know who that other person was.

"The shirt I was wearing is pretty much destroyed.

"I managed to smash the glass and the smoke just hit me.

"I came back out briefly and said I don't want to go back in there but then me and the police officer went back in. I was in there for a bit of time before I helped get the man out.

"It was a team effort between us and the nurse and the policeman. My family are proud of me, even though they think what I did was a bit crazy."

Friend Sophie Mayhew is organising an appeal to collect basic clothing for the women whose home has been destroyed. She said: "I am friends with Aga and Aurelia. I am trying to help them at this horrible time. Please call me on 07795 191081 so I can come collect anything you may have please help."

Businessman Keith Byron has offered his Torquay shop as a collection point. Keith, who has personally donated £100 in Primark vouchers to the appeal, runs Gas Boilers Ltd in Higher Union Street.

He said: "It's tragic, but it's very nice to see the community pulling together and I have had a good response from people. Another lady is offering them somewhere to live. I won't accept cash, but if anybody wants to give vouchers or other items I am happy to act as a collection point."

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