British firefighter among dead in Iran earthquake

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The Independent Online

A former British firefighter was among the victims of the Iranian earthquake. Gavin Sexton 36, from Southampton, was staying at a guesthouse in Bam when the earthquake struck just before dawn on Boxing Day.

By an extraordinary coincidence, Mr Sexton, who was travelling across Asia on an old Enfield motorcycle, was identified as a victim of the quake by his former colleagues from the Hampshire fire brigade who had travelled to Bam to help tackle the disaster.

While waiting for a visa to enter Turkey, Mr Sexton spent Christmas Day near the city's ancient fort and died in the rubble of the Akbar guest house. Due to the huge number of dead being recovered from the ruins of the city, he was buried immediately by the Iranian authorities. His personal effects were found in the rubble yesterday.

A spokesman for the Hampshire fire service said: "Mr Sexton left Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service in August 2003 to fulfil a long-standing ambition to travel the world and is believed to have been en route from India to Turkey when the earthquake struck."

Peter Crook, a search and rescue team leader who was Mr Sexton's station commander for more than a decade, said: "It was a miraculous coincidence, a bit of a shock. We knew there was a British citizen involved in the earthquake and we heard a rumour he was a firefighter, but it never occurred to us that he was a Hampshire firefighter ­ let alone someone we worked directly with."

Four days after the earthquake destroyed the historic city, killing up to 30,000 people, British and other international rescue team began pulling out yesterday to allow other aid workers access to the tens of thousands who have been made homeless.