Update: Boatowner pays tribute to rescuer after vessel blaze in Beccles

The owner of a boat which burst into flames and then sank at Beccles Quay has paid thanks to the man he said saved his life.

Tony Tibbitt, 76, and his wife Alison, 67, were on their boat, the Cleo, on Sunday, when it became engulfed with flames after an apparent explosion in the engine.

Mrs Tibbitt jumped from the boat into the water and managed to swim to safety to the river bank but it was quick-thinking and skilled sailor, Barry Bloy, who came to the rescue of Mr Tibbitt.

The 54-year-old father-of-four, of the Parkhill estate in Oulton, near Lowestoft, said: 'At first I heard a splash and saw a woman in the water. Then I heard Mr Tibbitt shout 'help, help'. It was only when I got closer I saw the flames.

'I didn't think about my own safety. I went into auto mode and I just thought about getting him off the boat.'

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Mr Bloy managed to skilfully steer his Shetland boat 'Largo' close enough to Mr Tibbitt for him to jump on.

'I went to go and put the fire out for Mr Tibbitt but after 30 seconds the whole thing was engulfed,' he said. Mr Bloy's wife Lesley, 52, would have been with him but had been called into work earlier that day. She said: 'He's just my hero really and I'm so proud of him.

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'I've been with him for 38 years and he would do anything for anyone.'

The Tibbitts, of Carlton Colville, had decided to take their boat out so they could go for a picnic. Mr Tibbitt had filled the boat's tank with 20 litres of petrol and they had travelled only a short distance before the fire started at about 2.45pm.

Mr Tibbitt, a retired insurance claims manager who sits on the newly-formed Carlton Colville Town Council, said: 'We went out about 20 to 50 yards from the quay.

'Then I heard a loud bang. Then the engine and cabin was ablaze. Things did not look good. There were flames everywhere. We are very fortunate as it could have been a lot worse.

'Barry brought the boat in with great skill and I am thankful to him for saving my life.'

Despite the large blaze Mr Tibbitt only suffered what he called 'singed hair and eyebrows'. However his wife, of 46 years, suffered second degree burns to her arms, shoulders and legs.

Mrs Tibbitt said it had been a frightening experience and she had decided to jump into the River Waveney as she feared she might burn to death.

A crowd of more than 50 people watched from the bridge and river bank, off Gillingham Dam Road, near Bridge Street, as the flames reached more than 30 feet in height. Reports said the smoke could be seen more than four miles away.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service crews from Beccles and Lowestoft managed to control the blaze before the boat sank shortly after 3.30pm. After the fire the couple were taken to and treated at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston.

The fire is currently being investigated by the Broads Authority.

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