A MOTHER-of-three killed as an ‘explosion’ shattered a Windermere wedding celebration was a much-loved wife and mum who would help anybody, her family said.
Polly Connor, 46, of Kendal, was said to have doted on her husband Damien and children Molly, 15, Daisy, 14and Oscar, 10.
She was one of two people to die on Saturday during the celebration at Ecclerigg after agreeing to help out with a planned fireworks finale.
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And the bride and groom who had arranged the special ceremony have also spoken of their ‘devastation’.
Police said the blast at around 3.15pm on Saturday also killed a man.
There has been no formal confirmation of who the man is but he was named locally as Andrew Coates, from Kendal, who had run Stardust Fireworks.
Friend Robbi Fisher said on Facebook: “By all accounts there was a huge explosion, whereby if there is any grace in this, they won’t have known or suffered in any way in the blaze that followed.”
Last Saturday’s party on the shore of Windermere at Ecclerigg had been arranged to celebrate the marriage of Windermere businessman John Simpson, 61, to Nicole Rothwell, 44.
Mr Simpson told the Gazette: “My wife and I are truly devastated by the tragic deaths which occurred. Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of the two deceased at this time of grief and great sadness.
“We are currently in total shock and we have no idea what caused this terrible tragedy. Naturally, we have cancelled our honeymoon and we are working with the relevant authorities as they fully investigate this dreadful incident.”
Eye-witnesses spoke of debris raining down on the lawns of the lakeshore property, saying they would never forget ‘hearing a bride scream on her wedding day’.
It emerged this week that Polly Connor lived with her family on Kendal’s Sepulchre Lane, having moved to the area 10 years ago.
Brother Russell Colman, a well-known local portrait photographer, said: “We are devastated – completely distraught. We’ve been torn apart by this.”
Polly was married to Damien Connor, 46 and ran her own business ‘Polly the Plumber’.
In her earlier years, she had worked as a rider and head groom for international racing stables, as well as being clerk to the course for the The Macau Jockey Club in China.
Her mum Penny Benson, said: “Words simply cannot adequately describe our loss, particularly that of her husband Damien and children whom she absolutely adored and was so incredibly proud of. # Her children were a tribute to her. She absolutely put them first.
“As a dear friend said, Polly was someone who stood tall in all our lives. She had a group of close women friends and loved their shared evenings dancing and talking.
“She was also a hard worker whose first instinct was to help and think of others wherever she went.
“Polly was someone who could absolutely be described as a social healer. Someone who brought a sparkle to a room wherever she went.”
John Benson, Polly’s stepfather, said: “She brought everything together in the most remark-able way. She was lovely. Delicate and feminine but also a tomboy.
"It’s hard to describe someone with such an opposing combination of characteristics but, in Polly, there they were.
“She was good at everything she did but always humble and modest. She didn’t do herself justice.
Brother Russell Colman said: “Growing up, we were like the three amigos, mum, Polly and me. She was little but so tough. She was determined, generous, warm-hearted. She could be quite shy and was very humble. But she would light up a room.
“She was always asking after people. Polly would be the first to offer to help whenever she could. She was very much a family person, loved by all who were lucky enough to know her.”
AROUND 70 people had gathered close to Windermere on a warm Saturday afternoon to celebrate a marriage.
Semi-retired Windermere busines-sman John Simpson, and new bride Nicole Rothwell, were married at Kendal Register Office last week.
Mr Simpson, originally from Cheshire, is well known locally, having set up Windermere firm Simpsons and Parsons insurance consultants in 1983.
The couple had thrown open the grounds and gardens of their Larch Cottage home at Ecclerigg – comp-lete with pretty wedding bunting and marquees.
A fireworks finale had been planned in the grounds which are down a private cul-de-sac just yards from Windermere’s shoreline and next door to Brockhole.
But at around 3.15pm the after-noon was rocked by a ‘ground-shaking’ series of ‘bomb-like’ explosions – sending guests ‘screaming and running’.
Cumbria Fire Service said a serious fire broke out in an out-building and shed – just feet from where marquees had been erected.
The fire, which also destroyed a car, sent thick plumes of black and grey smoke drifting across the lake as fireworks began escaping from the shed - exploding in the sky over Windermere.
Visitor Anthony Middleton, 48, of Stockport, was at Brockhole and took a photo of the blaze (above).
He described ‘a ground-shaking’ explosion followed by fireworks.
“Thick black smoke followed shortly afterwards and it was apparent that a serious fire had started. It looked as though an outbuilding containing display quality fireworks had exploded.”
Fire chiefs said this week that it could be ‘weeks or even months’ before the cause was established and that they were looking for the ‘ignition source’.
Penny Legat, from Kendal, was at the event playing the viola with the Elysia String Quartet, having been booked for the occasion.
She said: “There was a lot of smoke and then a fireball and loud explosions and things falling out of the sky around us.
“There was a lot of screaming and running but there was also puzzlement and fear, it was frightening.”
Near neighbours Enid and John Battersby, in their 80s, said that about 3.15pm there was ‘an almighty bang.”
Mr Battersby said: “We’ve not heard an explosion like that since the Blitz on Manchester when we were children.” Others likened it to an ‘IRA bomb going off.’
Fire crews from Windermere, Ambleside, Coniston and Staveley raced to the scene.
A head count established two people were missing and guests could not leave until 8pm.
Cumbria trading standards officials and the Health and Safety Executive have joined the investigation.
On Sunday, as police officers stood guard at the scene and fire crews sifted through the charred debris, a tearful tourist asked the assembled media: “How does such an awful thing happen in a beautiful place like this?”