Lucky pair escape from burning van

A van fire in Polegate
A van fire in Polegate

Two people had a lucky escape after a van burst into flames on a busy Polegate road during the morning rush hour on Friday (January 11).

The white Transit van was travelling along the A27 towards Brighton when the incident happened at 9.11am. It caught fire as it travelled past the Thoroughbred pub in Grand Parade, Polegate.

Gary Huckvale, who lives in Polegate and was on his way to Eastbourne from Brighton, watched the fire which burnt so fiercely it melted part of the road.

He told the Gazette he was sitting waiting in traffic when he saw the van ‘blow up’.

Gary, 47, said, “The van was engulfed in flames and if anyone was in there they would have died – the cab was all in flames.”

He said he saw the van swerve over and people jumped out.

He added, “The fire started seconds after they jumped out of the car. They looked very scared because it just exploded.

“The windows blew out straight away.”

Gary, a bricklayer, said he watched the commotion during the fire and saw another motorists run to the front of the burning Transit.

He told the Gazette, “I have never seen anything like it except from in films. It was like an Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

“I was about 20 metres away but I wasn’t scared because I am a macho man!”

The landlady of the Thoroughbred pub Ruth Weisham said, “It was partially burnt out, just the tail end was left. All the front and the inside was gone.

“I thought it was a little strange because it was facing the pub, and not going toward Brighton or Eastbourne, so it might have been turning around, I don’t know, but it looked very odd.”

It is not clear why the fire started but Gary said he thought they may have been something explosive inside.

Ambulance, police and fire crews attended the scene. Fire fighters used a hose reel to extinguish the flames.

They were on the scene for less than half-an-hour, but the incident caused some delays for motorists travelling on the busy A27.