Friends and family pay tribute to blaze victims

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The Independent Online

The teenage fiancée of one of the missing firefighters described him as a "hero" who would never be forgotten. Laying flowers with friends and relatives of the other casualties, 17-year-old Emma Crocker, the mother of Ashley Stephens' three-month-old son, had written a card addressed to Mr Stephens, 21, which spoke of her grief.

"To my darling Ashley," it read. "I love you with all of my heart and more. I will look after our baby boy. You will never be forgotten and you will never leave our hearts. You're a hero, babe."

Another tribute, from his sister Kerry said: "No words can express to you how I feel. You are my brother, the one person who meant so much."

Another missing firefighter is Darren Yates-Bradley, 24. He was married just two weeks ago to Fay Beasley and their wedding car was a classic fire engine. On his profile on a social networking site the fitness coach quotes a firefighters' poem: "When I am called to duty, God, Wherever flames may rage, Give me the strength to save some life."

Lucy Coombs, 26, a friend, said: "When I heard, I was devastated, especially as he had only just got married. This is a sad loss for the community. Because this is such a small town everyone knows everyone ."

A family friend of missing John Averis, 27, said: "John was a lovely brave man. It was his lifelong dream to be a firefighter. It's tragic he lost his life doing something he loved, but it's even more tragic that he died trying to stop a fire from destroying some vegetables."

Steve McGuirk, president of the Chief Fire Officers' Association said: " The commitment and courage of these Warwickshire firefighters cost them their lives. I have no doubt that the people of Warwickshire and the entire UK firefighting family is deeply shaken by this tragic loss."

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