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Grandfather’s Norfolk Broads treat turns into family rescue drama after fears of fire on cruiser

PUBLISHED: 09:49 30 June 2014

The family recovering at the Norfolk Broads Yacht Club. Left to right: Thomas Webb, 10; Simon Webb; Daniel Webb, five; Charlie Ablett, nine; Wendy Ablett; Steven Lafferty

The family recovering at the Norfolk Broads Yacht Club. Left to right: Thomas Webb, 10; Simon Webb; Daniel Webb, five; Charlie Ablett, nine; Wendy Ablett; Steven Lafferty


Three generations of an Essex family enjoying a weekend on the Broads were rescued by a group celebrating a 50th birthday after they feared their cruiser had caught fire.

Grandfather Colin Pearce had hired a 45-foot cruiser as a treat for his family, but the power cut out and smoke started to pour from its engine as it drifted towards trees at about 6.30pm on Saturday, near Wroxham Broad.

While the nine members –including three boys aged five to 10 – gathered at the back of the vessel, holiday makers on a nearby hire boat raised the alarm with the professionally-staffed Cordon Rouge from Broads Tours.

The 40 passengers on the Cordon Rouge included a doctor from Preston, three rowing coaches and a number of sea scouts.

John McGregor, whose partner Lynda Bowden was celebrating her birthday, said: “I was on the top deck and told our helmsman the boat ahead has a fire. There was a lot of smoke, but no flames.

“The whole family was at the back of the boat, as far away as they could get. One of them was already on the phone.

“It pretty soon became clear that the kids were pretty frightened and wanted to get off.”

The Cordon manoeuvred itself to pick up the family, the doctor checked them for smoke inhalation, and the boys were offered birthday cake as they were taken to the Norfolk Broads Yacht Club.

The club, which was holding a fundraising event for Macmillan Cancer Support, offered them drinks and desserts as they waited for accommodation to be organised in Potter Heigham.

Mr Pearce’s daughter Wendy Ablett said the Cordon Rouge and yacht club had been brilliant, and the family would make a donation to Macmillan.

The boat, from Herbert Woods, was secured overnight, and Michael Whitaker, a partner at the boatyard, said a belt on the engine had broken and caused a jam and smoke, but there was no actual fire.

Firefighters from Sprowston, Earlham, Stalham and Carrow were sent to the scene, and the coastguard, air ambulance and paramedics were also despatched.

Have you been involved in a dramatic rescue? Email


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