Midlands pub burns down

2009-08-06 00:00

BELLISSIMO’S Pub near Howick was destroyed in a blaze in a matter of minutes yesterday afternoon.

Patrons gathered at the scene of the fire to mourn the loss of their Friday night watering hole, reminiscing as the thatch continued burning.

Craig Lewis (27), who rents the premises, stood with his head in his hands watching his business smoulder.

He works at a pallet manufacturing business next door during the day.

“I was at work at the premises next door when I saw the smoke. Initially I thought it was a fire on the highway, but I walked down and when I was five metres away I saw flames behind the building.” Lewis said he next saw the roof burst into flames.

“I stood there shocked. I’m experiencing every emotion in the book.”

Lewis, who said he rents the building from Locke Purdon of Trucksurance, said he has not yet been able to contact his landlord, but has told his secretary of the fire.

He said the pub was operating on Friday nights only and that the premises were rented out for functions.

Lewis’s girlfriend, Tristan Riley, and her mother Karen were both shot in the legs after armed robbers held them up at the pub in March.

“We were just getting over the shooting incident, and now this happens,” said a distressed Lewis.

He said he is happy with the response of the Howick fire brigade.

Police at the scene said that an arson inquiry was under way, and that depending on the report from the fire brigade, an arson case may be registered today.

News of the fire spread fast to locals in the area.

Esmarelda Uys (18) rushed down to watch the flames enveloping her favourite hang-out after she was alerted to the fire via Facebook.

“I was on Facebook and I started getting messages saying ‘Bells is burning’, and ‘RIP Bells’. I rushed outside and from my house in Howick, I could see the smoke and thought, ‘so it’s really on fire’.”

She drove down to take pictures of the fire.

“It was so nice to chill with friends here. It was the best place to come to. Even if you didn’t want to drink, you could just dance.

“They usually had a bonfire, and the lounge and music was great.”

Another spectator was Malcolm Harris, who said he had built the second phase of Bellissimo’s two years ago.

Firefighters at the scene said they had to abandon the fire and let the place burn. Ronnie Ndlovu, the watch commander for Umngeni Fire Brigade, told The Witness the building took 10 minutes to burn down.

He said firefighters rushed to save the kitchen building, but the rest was already in flames.

“We got all the gas cylinders out, because they could have exploded.”

He said they got the call at 4.10 pm and were at the scene about six minutes later.

Other people at the scene speculated that the fire brigade took between 20 and 40 minutes to arrive.

Tim Slabbert, who works next door, said the news of the fire spread “in seconds”.

“Everyone is sad.” He said the roof has almost collapsed by the time he arrived and had already fallen when the fire department arrived.

 

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