Holiday nightmare continues for rescued hotel guests

Joseph Bulmer

Coach crash for holidaymakers rescued in Tantons Hotel blaze

GUESTS rescued from a blaze in a Bideford hotel had their vacations cut short – only for their coach to be involved in a crash on their way home.

Forty guests from East Anglia were among those who fled Tantons Hotel after a fire broke out in the early hours of yesterday morning (Tuesday).

Guests – many of them still in their night clothes – were taken to a makeshift evacuation centre across the river at the Royal Hotel. Some who lost their belongings were later re-clothed by a charity shop in Barnstaple.

The party – on a coach trip with Norwich-based company Sunrise Direct – included 15 people from Norwich, six from Suffolk, seven from Cambridgeshire and 12 from Essex.

Paul Bennett, managing director of Sunrise Direct, said the party had arrived at Tantons Hotel on Monday and the guests had been due to stay for four nights.

After the fire, Sunrise had made arrangements for the party to return home, but they had to wait until about 3pm to leave, because the police wanted to speak to some of the guests and the driver about the fire.

He said no one from the Sunrise party was hurt in the blaze, but confirmed that the coach had been involved in some kind of shunt on the way home.

He said last night: “It’s very sketchy but the driver said that on a roundabout near Bristol, a car slammed on the brakes in front, and there was some kind of incident. But the driver said that it had not affected the journey back.”

Meanwhile, Dave Berry, a Norwich friend of some of the holidaymakers, said that he had spoken to them on a mobile phone, while they were still on the coach. He said: “When I spoke to them at about 5.50pm they were still in Bristol, so I don’t think they will be getting home on schedule.”

Mr Bennett said that his company was refunding their holiday costs and helping them make any claims on their travel insurance.

He said: “We understand some people’s luggage has been smoke-damaged so we will be giving them support on how to claim on their insurance.”

He said Sunrise would also be contacting customers whose future holidays may be affected because of the fire at the Tantons Hotel.

Sixty fire fighters and eight fire engines were used to tackle the blaze on the third floor of the Grade II listed riverside hotel.

All guests were accounted for and a sergeant and two police officers who broke into the hotel to rescue guests were praised for their bravery.

A police spokesman said: “They demonstrated extreme courage and bravery coupled with physical exertion breaking down doors to gain access to rooms.”

A 58-year-old man arrested on suspicion of arson at a Bideford hotel is still being questioned by police.