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Neighbours tried in vain to save pensioner from blaze

By Alex Spencer

Scene of the fatal fire on Coldhams Lane, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Scene of the fatal fire on Coldhams Lane, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Neighbours have spoken of their devastation after they were unable to save a pensioner from fire at his house in Coldham's Lane on Monday evening (November 5).

The man has been named locally as Ken Pettit, who was believed to be in his 80s, and was a founder member of the Duxford Aviation Society.

A couple in the house next door noticed the blaze and called 999 when their own house began to fill with smoke and they realised it was coming from their friend’s home.

Fire crews were called at 7.02pm on Monday evening along with paramedics and police.

A spokesperson from the Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “Wearing breathing apparatus, firefighters used two hose reels to extinguish the fire. A positive pressure ventilation fan was used to clear the smoke. Sadly one person died at the scene and an investigation is ongoing to establish the cause of the fire.”

Next door neighbour Barry Edgeley said his daughter Lydia and her partner Mark were in their house when they noticed smoke pouring into their home.

“Basically our house began to fill up with smoke downstairs. And it turned out the fire was in Ken’s house and the smoke was somehow coming through the walls. My daughter went outside and phoned me and said there was smoke coming out of Ken’s chimney.

“I said there shouldn’t be because he hasn’t got a fire so we knew then that it was bad. I said ring the fire brigade and they went round to Ken’s and tried banging on his door and the windows. But unfortunately he had locked all the doors, which was obvious he would at that time of night.

“They then had to stay out of our house because it was full of smoke and they thought ours was on fire as well. It was quite scary. Finally, we heard the bad news that Ken was still in there and that was awful.”

Barry, a retired graphic designer, added: “Ken was a brilliant neighbour and our kids have grown up knowing him. We used to have little chats about planes because he was into his aircraft and would go to Duxford practically every Sunday.

“I know he was heavily involved with working on Concorde and I know he was recently going over to Duxford and writing a book about Concorde and its arrival in Cambridge. Whether that book is finished or still exists, I don’t know.

“We have been neighbours with him since 1973. My daughter is very upset. I think she is still in shock because she knew him fairly well and it was just the fact of not being able to help him and the horrible way he died. He was a clever guy and a gent. He will be sadly missed.”

David Hands, chair of the Duxford Aviation Society, said: “This is very sad news. Ken was a founder member and at the society when Concorde arrived in 1977.

“He was involved with that aircraft for 20 years, doing work on it and looking after it. He made a great contribution to the work of the society and was secretary for many years. I know that a lot of people will want to pay their respects at his funeral.”


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