A FAMILY had a lucky escape when their boat caught fire in a freak fuel accident.

The 15ft boat became a raging inferno as soon as the man inside turned the ignition key on the River Avon at Eckington, near Pershore.

Fire crews from Worcester and Pershore and a rescue boat from Evesham were deployed shortly after 2pm.

Eyewitnesses reported how the man in the boat leapt onto the bank with his hair on fire as he shouted at his children to run away.

The boat then drifted down the river after breaking free of its moorings, coming to rest against another boat which also caught fire.

Watch manager Julian Jenkins of Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service said the scene resembled "a viking funeral" as the boat drifted aimlessly down the river towards other boats moored there.

Kyle Lovegrove, aged 14, of Davies Road, Evesham, said: "He turned the ignition and it just went up in flames. The man's hair caught fire then someone called the fire brigade but he put it out with his hands. There was lots of black smoke which covered the sun. There were two people on the boat - a man and a woman - and two children beside it. When they jumped off, they shouted at the children to run."

A civilian managed to push one of the boats to the side of the river where it was secured. Fire fighters then had a better chance of tackling the blaze and from preventing the fire spreading to other boats.

Watch manager Julian Jenkins said he suspected the fire was caused by a fuel explosion because of a fault in the engine.

The family had left the scene before your Worcester News arrived and no-one there was able to establish ownership of either of the boats.

The fires were swiftly put out when the fire fighters arrived, leaving nothing but charred remains.

No-one was injured and no ambulance attended the scene.