UPDATE: 'It was like a bomb had gone off' - shocked residents tell of double fire tragedy

The scene of the blaze. Picture by Anthony Middleton

Police officers and forensic team at the property today

The charred shed/outbuilding can be seen on the right

First published in News
Last updated
The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A SERIES of 'bomb-like' explosions rocked a wedding celebration on the shores of Windermere before a fatal fire tragically claimed the lives of a man and a woman, shocked neighbours have said.

Eyewitnesses and residents as well as staff at the Brockhole Visitor Centre, which is next to the scene, were left traumatised and in tears by Saturday's horrific double tragedy on their doorsteps.

Police confirmed that the bodies of what are believed to be a man and a woman were found.

It is understood the pair, who, it has been suggested, were at the wedding in an official capacity, had remained unaccounted for and were 'missing' when a headcount of guests was carried out once the fire broke out.

The victims are also understood to be local to the Kendal area, although there has been no formal confirmation of their identities or their roles at Saturday's celebration.

A shed containing fireworks had set on fire yesterday, police confirmed earlier today, and they added a vehicle near to the shed was also damaged by the blaze.

One resident told the Gazette: "At quarter past three there was an almighty bang and then another pop and then another loud bang and the sound of fireworks going off which we thought was unusual because it was still daylight."

Others described the noise as 'bomb-like'.

Parts of Brockhole - busy with families and children enjoying the grounds on a warm Saturday afternoon in the Lake District - were evacuated as a safety precaution, and some staff raced to offer help.

Intense flames at the seat of the fire and thick black billowing smoke could clearly be seen from Brockhole's grounds and were captured on camera by visitor Anthony Middleton, 48, who was passing at the time.

Another resident added: "We understood they were going to have fireworks which were going to be in the evening and were having a marquee. It's so sad."

There are local unconfirmed theories that the large shed/outbuilding at the centre of the blaze - which was entirely destroyed in the fire - may have contained gas canisters and a vintage car, but there has been no formal confirmation of this from investigators.

The blaze broke out in the grounds of the significant lake-facing detached property belonging to long-standing local businessman John Simpson.

He established the Windermere-based insurance consultants' firm Simpson and Parsons back in 1983 with business partner John Parsons.

Mr Simpson, who has lived at the property for around 30 years and has children from a previous relationship, is understood to have got married in the past week.

He had organised a large weekend celebration for around 70 people to mark the happy occasion.

Mr Simpson was described as a 'likeable' and 'pleasant chap' and concerned locals all expressed their sympathy and sadness for those affected by the 'tragic accident'.

Mr Simpson was not available for comment at the property yesterday, parts of which have been sealed off by police tape.

Community support officers were guarding entrances to the property as crime scene investigators and fire crews are still working on their investigation into how the fire started - including forensic experts in protective clothing.

The centre of the investigation is a large charred shed/outbuilding in the grounds close to the house.

Cumbria Police said in a short statement: "Police can confirm that two people have sadly died following a fire at Ecclerigg near Windermere.

"Police were called at 3.35pm today (30th August). Two bodies were found. Police and the fire service are investigating the circumstances that led to the fire."

A spokesman for Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service said the incident happened at about 3.30pm.

He said four crews were in attendance at the scene on Saturday to help get water to the blaze which is near Brockhole.

A fire service statement said: "Firefighters were called to deal with a serious fire involving two adjacent outbuildings in the grounds of a large house in Ecclerigg, near Windermere. 

"Four fire engines from Windermere, Ambleside, Staveley and Coniston were sent to the scene and crews found a well-developed fire involving the two outbuildings.

"Four firefighters wearing breathing apparatus used two hose reel jets and compressed air foam to bring the fire under control.

"Two crews remain at the scene damping down and a joint investigation with the police into the cause will start tomorrow morning (31st)."

On Saturday, there were reports on social media about loud bangs and explosions being heard in the vicinity and also reports of people seeing a building on fire.

Members of the public were urged to avoid the area yesterday afternoon while emergency services dealt with the incident.

A Kendal resident who was on a bus going past, added that the fire was in the grounds of a property 'immediately north of Brockhole' and that lots of emergency service vehicles were in attendance.

He described the fire as 'big' and said that from the water, 'dirty grey smoke' could clearly be seen emanating from an outbuilding.

He added that from the water earlier 'it looked like fireworks going off accidentally' with 'sparkles in the sky'.

Comments (1)

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6:51pm Sat 30 Aug 14

flora_f00 says...

Drove past it at 4pm, it was a wedding and for an 'outbuilding' fire, it was big enough to warrant a helicopter, ambulance, several fire crews and several police cars. The smoke was down by the Lowood so it's not a minor incident. Hope everyone is ok. Terrible for the bride.
Drove past it at 4pm, it was a wedding and for an 'outbuilding' fire, it was big enough to warrant a helicopter, ambulance, several fire crews and several police cars. The smoke was down by the Lowood so it's not a minor incident. Hope everyone is ok. Terrible for the bride. flora_f00
  • Score: -1
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