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.


Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.