Smallburgh landlady devastated as charity bus destined for Africa goes up in flames on A11
- Credit: Archant
A £6,000 double decker London bus had not yet begun its journey to the Ivory Coast from a village pub in Smallburgh when it was totally destroyed in a fire on the A11 this afternoon.
Eunice Kokrasset, landlady of The Crown in Smallburgh, wanted to repay the hospitality shown her by the tight-knit community by bussing 16 locals to her homeland.
Donations have been flooding in from sponsors and local people, including books, science equipment, sports kits and clothing, to be loaded onto the bus and taken to the Ivory Coast in late August.
But as Miss Kokrasset, 34, was following the bus from the depot in Croydon this afternoon around 1.20pm, the bus caught fire on the A11 in Cambridgeshire and burned to the ground.
'While he was driving the driver just heard a bang from the back of the bus,' said Miss Kokrasset.
'Thank goodness he pulled in to a lay-by and got out. I pulled in and looked at the back and already it was ablaze. Within minutes it had burned to the ground.
'It is just awful.'
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Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service said the fire was 'accidental, by equipment, with a fire that started in the engine'.
'It was for a charity action we were doing as well so it was very hard to have got so far and for that to happen,' added Miss Kokrasset.
'We are organising a trip to the Ivory Coast and we wanted to ship a double decker bus, because what better represents Britain than a red double decker bus?'
'We thought it would be a good idea to use it as a mobile library out there.
'Lots of people donated things like books and equipment to send out to the children who are less privileged.'
Miss Kokrasset said she had only taken third party insurance which would not cover the fire.
After she became landlady of The Crown, a 15th Century coaching inn in the village, the locals befriended her.
Miss Kokrasset was Mrs Wortley when she moved to Norwich in December 2010 after marrying George Wortley, who later died, leaving her alone in a strange country.
She planned to become a French teacher, as that language is spoken in the Ivory Coast, but she knew the landlords at the Crown were retiring.