'This has devastated me' – Enthusiast gutted by loss of 9/11 NYPD command vehicle and classic cars in brutal fire
PUBLISHED: 16:41 03 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:16 04 February 2019
It played a significant role as a police command vehicle during the Twin Towers tragedy at the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But as work was being carried out on an iconic New York Police Department (NYPD) van at a north Suffolk industrial unit, a devastating blaze tore through garage workshops destroying the Dodge van and two classic cars.
Damage estimated at tens of thousands of pounds was caused as firefighters and tenants at Boasts Industrial Park battled to save many years’ worth of collections and restorations.
A fire investigation is due to take place today to establish the cause of the blaze, which ripped through the workshop units on Friday, February 1 – with an acetylene gas bottle later exploding at the scene.
And with the insurers also due to arrive at the estate in Worlingham, a classic vehicle enthusiast has been left “devastated” – after more than 60 years’ worth of history went up in smoke.
Tools, sentimental family items and equipment were all damaged in the blaze, although some items were salvaged and one unit containing classic cars and motorbikes for a private owner was cleared.
Terence Boast, who owns the site with his son Gavin, admitted: “I’ve been collecting classic vehicles since I was 15 – more than 60 years. This has devastated me. I feel a bit deflated right now.”
Two of the cars under restoration were Mr Boast’s – a 1966 Mustang Notchback and an SS Jaguar – with the NYPD van being worked on for a private owner “to get its MOT.”
Mr Boast, 76, said: “I bring American cars in and restore them.
“This NYPD vehicle was used on 9/11 and was in here to be MOT’d ahead of going to proms, weddings, events and car shows.
“We’ve had it a few weeks and as well as doing the MOT work we’ve fitted the vehicle out from front to back with electric beds, TVs and DVD video players all in there as it was going to show footage of the Twin Towers on the screens at events.
He added: “The work was almost done, we have had it running for some time with no problems.
“The irony is it survived the Twin Towers as a police command vehicle – it is just so sad it should finish in a fire after all of its NYPD service.”
Fire ‘accelerated so rapidly’
At the height of the blaze, eight fire crews from across Suffolk and Norfolk were in attendance, with the initial call at 1.48pm on Friday.
With “fast action” from the firefighters stopping the flames from spreading, an aerial ladder platform, a water carrier and drone were all in use, with the incident under control by 3.53pm.
Recalling Friday’s awful events, Terence Boast said: “I was indoors and the mechanic was working on the van when I saw the black smoke.
“The fire spread and accelerated so rapidly.
“We tried to get the fire extinguishers on it with tenants coming from everywhere to help – we must have had about 30 people helping and great thanks go to them all for running in with fire extinguishers.
“I am gutted.”
He added: “The fire crews worked hard. They said its quite common in vehicles being worked on.
“Before we could get it out, it was fully ablaze and once it was fully alight that was it.”
Counting the cost of the wreckage
“I have collected all the vehicles, items and equipment over a lot of years – but this might be it now.”
That was the heartbreaking reaction of classic car enthusiast Terence Boast as he continued to assess the wreckage left behind by Friday’s devastating blaze.
While he still has a number of other classic cars in his collection, Mr Boast said: “It has kind of gutted me.
“I have been working on the 1966 Mustang Notchback for two years – it was almost fully restored. And I have spent 36 years buying various parts and equipment for the SS Jaguar – it was 98 per cent restored.”
The unit containing the Mustang and SS Jaguar was destroyed in the blaze, along with tools, equipment, some old bicycles and some “really old model aircraft” hanging down from the workshop.
Mr Boast said: “You are looking at around £7,000 for the van as it very iconic, about £19,000 for the Mustang as it was technically completed and £25,000 for the Jaguar.”
Terence Boast’s love of classic cars stems back to his uncle, Edward Smith, who used to collect vintage vehicles.
Gunner Edward Smith – known as Oxo – was seriously injured in the Second World War. After surviving and returning home to Rumburgh in 1945, he was told he would be unlikely to live more than five years.
He died aged 97 in 2016 – and left many of his collectibles behind. With a series of letters written during the wartime, Mr Boast said: “I managed to salvage a few Second World War letters that were my uncle’s.
“I have a Marconi sign that is quite rare, which survived, it came off Marconi’s original shop from the 1930s.
“I bought it years ago and it is strange that this and a few old registration plates survived.
“I also managed to salvage a torch lamp, truncheon and handcuffs that belonged to my great uncle, PC George Smith.”