A FATHER has spoken of the terrifying moment he battled to save the life of a man who died in a burning caravan alongside his two pet dogs.
William Blake rushed out to the caravan in farmland at Holt Heath wearing just his boxer shorts and shoes in a bid to save Emmanuel Feruggia, known as Manny, but was confronted by a wall of heat which stopped him in his tracks.
As we previously reported a fire tore through the caravan on farmland off the A4133 at Holt Heath, killing Manny who has yet to be officially named by West Mercia Police.
Four fire engines were called to the blaze, the cause of which is not believed at this stage to be suspicious.
Mr Blake, a 30-year-old plumber was staying with his partner, 25-year-old Debbie Houghton, at a rented cottage yards from the caravan. It was Miss Houghton who first noticed the fire and dialled 999. Their son, three-year-old Joshua Houghton-Blake, was also with them.
He said: “Debbie was shouting ‘there’s a fire!’ The flames were up to the bottom of the tree. I came out and put my shoes on and ran straight down there in my boxer shorts. It was like a wall of heat. I was shouting ‘phone the police! Phone the ambulance! Phone the fire brigade!’ I was shouting - I was screaming ‘Manny! Manny! Manny!’ He could not hear Manny’s dogs, Red (a Red Collie) and Connor (a Jack Russell), who normally bark if anybody gets near. He did not realise then that the dogs had already perished in the blaze.
Mr Blake’s right leg was bandaged at the scene by paramedics but he said it was now okay.
He added: “I thought, if ‘I didn’t put my shoes on, could I have got to him?’ I felt helpless. In my mind I was praying he wasn’t in there. I thought ‘maybe he has gone walking the dogs’. I even went up the lane, looking for his dogs.”
He used a torch to signal to firefighters where the turning was and switched on his car’s headlights to help the firefighters see what they were doing when they arrived on scene. The cottage has been rented by his girlfriend for around two to three months and Mr Blake would come up and see her and his son.
He said: “All I wanted was a nice quiet life. That’s what I am hoping to still do. I try not to look down there now (to the site of the fire).”
Debbie Houghton, who called 999 immediately, said the main thing for her was to protect her son who was too young to understand what had happened.
She said: “I can’t sleep because I keep thinking something else is going to happen. I felt a bit of panic. I just didn’t want Josh to see it. We just did what was right. We’re not heroes.”
Since the tragedy Mr Blake has been caring for Manny’s chickens and four pigs.
Meanwhile Manny’s best friend has spoken of his generosity and good humour.
The man, who only wanted to be known as Bill and is also of Holt Heath said he was ‘gutted’ about what happened to Manny and wanted to pay tribute to his best friend of 14 years.
He said his friend was 67 years old and was originally from Malta but had also lived in Chelmsley Wood. He said: “He was extremely well-liked. He wasn’t a loner at all as someone said. He had lots of friends. He spent all his money on his animals and used to sell the chicken eggs.
“He was a gentleman. Everybody loved him. He had a good sense of humour, was always cracking jokes and he liked a couple of pints. He had a short fuse and he didn’t put up with any nonsense. He didn’t stand any messing about - he could be hot tempered but he was generous. He was one of my best friends.”
He said he did not have electricity at the caravan and no television, using candles for light. He had worked for Rover but had retired and had also worked as a painter and decorator and behind the bar at the Centurion pub in Chelmsley Wood where he first met Bill and behind the bar at the Wharf Inn in Holt Heath.