Man in pub fire rescue dies of injuries

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The Independent Online

A plumber who battled through flames to save two children in an arson attack that killed two half-brothers died yesterday from his injuries after six weeks in intensive care.

Ronnie Springer, 35, suffered burns to more than half his body when he fought his way up two flights of stairs into the bedroom in a north London pub where the children were sleeping during a family gathering.

He helped to lower the youngsters to rescuers below but then had to jump from a second-floor window in the Prince of Wales pub in Stoke Newington, suffering further serious injuries when he hit the ground.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "Sadly Mr Springer's injuries were extremely serious and he has not survived. We know from the firefighters who attended the scene that he saved those children by placing himself in extreme danger."

The self-employed plumber, who died at 1.30am, had been kept under sedation at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in central London since the attack. He never regained consciousness.

The fire has left detectives with few leads as to why a business that had been owned by the same family for at least 30 years was a target.

Police believe the fire was started by setting light to an accelerant squirted at the entrance to the family living quarters above the pub bar at about 5am on 27 July.

Within minutes the flames had spread to the upper levels of the pub, spreading thick black smoke throughout the three-storey building. Charlie Knight, the five-year-old-son of the landlords, Kevin and Kate Knight, and Charlie's 10-year-old half-brother, Christopher, died from the effects of smoke inhalation and multiple burns.

Mr Springer, who lived in Hackney, east London, was among those attending the party. He ran upstairs to bring the children down only to find himself trapped. A taxi driver passing the scene described how he helped Mr Springer, who was a brother-in-law of Mrs Knight, to throw two girls - Denise Worell, 11, the daughter of Mr Knight from a previous relationship, and Vicki Chaundi, eight, a niece of Mrs Knight - to safety.

Daniel Tewolde, 37, an Eritrean refugee, said: "[Mr Springer] was holding a little girl in pyjamas. Her face was blackened and she was coughing and screaming, 'Mummy, help'. The ... man said he was afraid to drop her so far. I climbed on top of a table, he dropped her and I caught her in my arms. A few seconds later he was holding another girl. I caught her and laid her down."

Vicki and Joe Knight, the three-year-old brother of Charlie, who was also in the pub, remain in intensive care at a specialist burns unit in Chelmsford, Essex.