Published: 00:00, 17 April 2014
| Updated: 10:10, 17 April 2014
The family of a grandfather who was trapped inside a blazing building has spoken about how he was minutes from death in a fire which was started deliberately.
John Lawson was rushed to hospital after smoke filled his flat in Strode Crescent, Sheerness, at about 11pm on Wednesday.
Firefighters from Sheppey were called after flames which broke out in the ground floor of the terraced property spread and they rescued the pensioner from upstairs.
The 72-year-old, who has lived in the flat for 22 years, remained at Medway Maritime Hospital until Friday evening, suffering the effects of smoke inhalation.
His ex-wife Sandra Lawson, of Newcomen Road, Sheerness, has spoken of how she first heard about the drama.
“I was in Rendezvous bar in Sheerness High Street and one of my neighbours came in and said ‘you better get round there now because John’s house is on fire’,” she said.
“I went running round and he was in the street, laying down unconscious with an oxygen mask on.
“It was a big shock – he was jet black. I couldn’t see anything expect his eyes and everyone was standing round him.”
The 61-year-old said the couple’s son Justin had been on the phone to his dad, a retired musician, shortly before the fire and he had said he couldn’t breathe, so the 32-year-old had rushed round there and said to the firemen his father was upstairs.
Their daughter Adele, 26, went with him to hospital.
Mrs Lawson said although the flat wasn’t completely gutted by the blaze and they hope some of the sentimental things will be salvageable, everything else will have to go.
“It’s jet black with soot – you couldn’t ever live there,” she added.
“If he hadn’t spoken to our son I think he would have died up there – a few more minutes and he would have been gone.
“I don’t know how it’s going to affect him – he doesn’t seem the same person but then it’s early days - I feel sorry for my son and daughter to actually see him like that.
“He hasn’t been to the flat - we can’t take him round there because he has got so many memories.
“I would like to thank my friends and neighbours - there were lots of them all willing to help - a really nice crowd.
“I would also like to say thanks to the firemen and paramedics – they were fantastic.”
Crew manager at Sheppey James Ashby said: “A crew wearing breathing apparatus was sent into the building as we knew the resident was trapped upstairs as he dialled 999.
“The crew was faced with extremely challenging conditions and almost zero visibility, but managed to quickly get up the stairs and assisted the man out of his home before leading him to safety.”
A 36-year-old Sheerness man arrested on suspicion of arson has been bailed pending further inquiries to Friday, May 16.
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