Cornwall

Falmouth Beach Hotel fire: 'Missing' guests found

Falmouth Beach Hotel fire: Pic Alex R Elms
Falmouth's mayor said the fire "couldn't have happened at a worse time"

Three people who were unaccounted for after a fire at a hotel in Falmouth have been located, police said.

The fire at the Falmouth Beach Hotel broke out on Monday afternoon.

Initially 12 guests could not be located. Nine later made contact and police have said the final three, some businessmen, were now accounted for.

Repair work was being carried out at the site. The fire was not believed to be suspicious, investigators said, but may have been started by a tar heater.

'Open mind'

Devon and Cornwall Police said: "It appears that the three people previously thought to be unaccounted for have now been located, together with all other residents and staff."

However, officers added that they were checking to ensure that no-one had "wandered in off the beach" before the fire took hold.

The investigation into the fire is being carried out by police and the fire service.

The remains of the building are structurally dangerous

Investigators have asked anyone with photos or video footage of the fire in its early stages, and prior to the arrival of fire crews, to get in contact.

Police said: "Whilst both services are keeping an open mind, there do not appear to be any suspicious circumstances at this time."

The area manager of Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, Kevin Thomas, said investigators had some "fairly clear information" about how it began.

He said: "We strongly suspect that the fire was started by a tar heating barrel on the third floor."

At its height, more than 100 firefighters were involved, with 10 appliances, two aerial platforms and two water carriers being used to fight the blaze - one of the biggest in Falmouth - at the 120-bedroom hotel at Gyllyngvase.

It took firefighters more than seven hours to bring the fire under control.

Crews remained at the hotel on Monday night damping down hot spots, but have been unable to enter because it is believed to be structurally dangerous.

'Knock for Falmouth'

Alternative accommodation was found for 30 people from the Falmouth Beach Hotel - including Blur guitarist Graham Coxon - plus 100 guests at the neighbouring St Michael's Hotel.

St Michael's owner Nigel Carpenter said the loss of his neighbouring hotel was a "knock for Falmouth".

He said: "It is 120 rooms out of the town for the foreseeable future."

Guests from the St Michael's were allowed to return on Tuesday to retrieve cars and possessions.

The nearby Falmouth Hotel provided accommodation for some of those left without rooms.

Manager Ben Young said some holidaymakers had been left with "literally no possessions" as a result of the fire.

The family-run Falmouth Beach Hotel, which opened in 1984, became part of the Best Western group of hotels in 2000.

Olympic Torch

A Best Western spokesperson said fire crews managed to save the hotel's leisure club and 16 of its rooms, but the rest of the property had been destroyed.

The company added that assessors were on scene and that it was contacting all guests to find alternative accommodation for them.

Staff from the hotel are meeting with the owners to discuss the future.

The mayor of Falmouth, Geoffrey Evans, said the fire was a disaster for the town and "couldn't have happened at a worse time".

Next month Falmouth is due to host the Finn Cup sailing competition and is one of the towns to welcome the Olympic Torch on the first day of its relay throughout the UK.

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