Braintree family flees lightning-hit house

House on fire after lightning strike in Braintree Image copyright Lynette Gyford
Image caption Lightning caused Darren Hobson's home to burst into flames

A father whose home was struck by lightning says the ceiling collapsed on one of his children's bedrooms minutes after the family fled the house.

A bolt struck the roof of father-of-four Darren Hobson's semi-detached house in Braintree, Essex, just before 02:00 BST, causing a large fire.

He said his bedroom lit up blue and when he went to investigate, the house lights burst and he could see flames.

He praised firefighters who arrived quickly to bring it under control.

Image copyright Lynette Gyford
Image caption The fire quickly took hold and gutted much of the top half of the house
Image caption The extent of the damage became apparent in the morning
Image caption The roof eventually collapsed on to the top floor of the house including the bedrooms

"There were two really loud bangs in quick succession and our bedroom just lit up blue, and I was lying there just thinking 'that was really, really close'," said Mr Hobson.

"My wife was comforting my daughter and I thought I'd check on my twins... so I flicked the light on and the light in the middle of the room just exploded, and all the lights going across the hallway started popping one after the other.

"I was ducking down because they were blowing and I just looked up and I could see flames in the loft through the light fixtures.

Image caption Many of the family's possessions have been destroyed
Image caption Toys and other personal items had to be left in the burning house

"I grabbed my twins one under each arm, my wife grabbed my five-year-old and then my 13-year-old followed us down and I just ran down the stairs. I had my neighbours banging on the door telling us to, 'come on, out, out, out'."

Mr Hobson said five minutes later the roof caved in on one of his children's bedrooms and a wall collapsed on to a neighbour's car.

Image caption Darren Hobson said he could see flames through the light fixtures after the lights blew in the three-storey house
Image caption A side wall collapsed on to a neighbour's car

"It was amazing just how fast the fire took hold and destroyed the loft and the ceiling's come down," he said.

Essex Fire Service said four crews attended the blaze, which was put out just before 04:00 BST.

Image caption Darren Hobson said he "don't like to think about what would have happened" if he had not got his children out quickly

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