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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 August 2007, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Man dies in fire at resort hotel
Hotel fire
Firecrews had to withdraw when part of the hotel collapsed

A man has died, four people have been injured and six others are missing after a fire at a Cornwall hotel caused part of the building to collapse.

Some residents were forced to jump to safety as the blaze swept through the Penhallow Hotel in Newquay.

Fire crews had to withdraw when parts of the structure gave way and investigators have not ruled out that some of the missing may be inside.

More than 80 people managed to get out of the building safely.

Collapse 'imminent'

Devon and Cornwall emergency services said the four casualties were in hospital, but could not confirm the extent of their injuries.

They said that when the fire broke out the hotel was close to capacity with 86 guests, three members of staff and a coach driver in the building.

Wreckage of Penhallow Hotel

The fire service said a total of 23 appliances were sent to tackle the blaze after it was called to the scene at 0015 BST.

Three neighbouring buildings, also described as hotels, were evacuated as a precaution.

Firefighters said the four-storey building was in danger of complete collapse, which made it difficult to completely extinguish the smaller fires.

The police information line number is 0800 056 0154
The hotel firm has also set up a helpline for anyone who is concerned about a friend or relative on 01254 889 900

Senior divisional officer Colin Hatch said more than 120 firefighters who attended the blaze were forced to pull back due to the instability of the hotel's outside walls.

Jan Sturgess, of the Cornwall Fire Brigade, said: "The state of the building is in a very serious condition at the moment, there's been major structural kind of damage.

'Jumping to escape'

"All the floors have collapsed and the building is in a fairly unstable position, so we've withdrawn crews at this time and we're awaiting the building surveyor to assess the building with us."

Mr Hatch said Cornwall Fire Brigade was now working with a specialist contractor to remove the upper floors of the building and make it safe.

He said a controlled demolition would be necessary before fire and police personnel could start their investigation into the cause of the blaze.

No-one would be allowed into the evacuated neighbouring buildings until the fire service had carried out a full risk assessment, he added.

The hotel's owners said smoke detectors and fire doors had been checked two weeks ago.

Map showing Newquay

Ted Stimpson, deputy chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, said the search for the missing guests would continue and urged people in the area to stay away from the scene for their own safety.

Local resident Luke Steward told BBC News 24 he was in a pub when the fire broke out.

"We just saw the roof was well alight and 10 minutes later the lobby was ablaze."

He said later that "the central part of the hotel collapsed".

Mr Steward said his brother told him he had seen people jumping out of windows onto blankets in an effort to escape from the burning building.


Emergency planning staff from Cornwall County Council have set up a reception centre at a local pub - the Fort Inn, in Fore Street, Newquay - for those evacuated.

Guests from the hotel were also being cared for at the nearby Reef Surf Lodge.

Paul Knight, security manager at the lodge, said he had helped a number of people from the hotel.

Penhallow Hotel before the fire (pic: Mike Scarfe)
The Penhallow Hotel before the fire. It is owned by Holdsworth Hotels

He said he went outside after being alerted by the fire alarm, and saw flames licking up the side of the building.

He said: "It was just a nightmare. It is quite a hotel for old people, there's often coach loads of pensioners in there, obviously not the quickest of moving people.

"I tried to get as many of them into our lodge as possible and give them blankets and towels and stuff to try to warm them up a bit.

"A lot of them were just in shock trying to find the rest of their party."

The Penhallow is owned by Holdsworth Hotels and used regularly by Robinsons Holidays, a family-run tour operator based in Lancashire. Both firms are owned by the same parent company, O&C Holdsworth.

A spokesman for Robinsons said: "We do know that there were at least 86 people in the hotel who were with a Robinsons coach holiday.

"They are part of the same group that owns the hotel and they do cater for the more mature passenger, largely from the north and north-west of England."

Eyewitness describes the scene of the fire

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