Necker Island on fire

Peter NJ

Senior Insider
So sad..Struck by lightening.

Kate Winslet escapes fire on Sir Richard Branson's Necker Island

Kate Winslet, the Oscar-winning actress, and her children were forced to flee a fire in the early hours of yesterday morning as it ripped through Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island home, burning it to the ground.

Richard Branson spends half the year at his hideaway on Necker, his island in the Caribbean (ALAMY/DAVID ROSE)
By Victoria Ward5:29PM BST 22 Aug 2011Comment

Others who managed to escape the blaze included Sir Richard’s 90-year-old mother, Eve, and his daughter Holly, 29.
The group was staying at the eight-bedroomed Great House, situated at the highest point of the Caribbean island, when it was struck by lightening during a tropical storm at 4am.

Sir Richard, who bought Necker, in the British Virgin Islands, for around £200,000 in 1981 and began building the Great House the following year, was staying at a neighbouring property with his wife, Joan, and son, Sam, 25.
The Virgin tycoon was typically effervescent when describing the loss of his private home, which also housed his office, vowing to rebuild it as soon as possible.

He said: “It's very much the Dunkirk Spirit here. We want to rebuild the house as soon as we can. We have a wonderful staff here and we want them to stay in work.

"We'll all stay here for the time being. There's a lot of damage and we won't be able to stick it back together again right away. It was a beautiful house."

Winslet, 35, who won an Oscar for her role in the 2008 film The Reader, has a daughter Mia, 10, from her first marriage to Jim Threapleton, and a son, Joe, seven, by second husband, director Sam Mendes, from whom she is separated.
The actress is no stranger to the island and recently took part in an impromptu sailing race with her host on board his boat, the Necker Belle.

Her spokeswoman confirmed that she was “unharmed” in the fire but declined to provide further details.
Sir Richard said: "We had a really bad tropical storm with winds up to 90mph. A big lightning storm came around 4am and hit the house.

"My son Sam rushed to the house and helped get everyone out. Kate Winslet, her boyfriend and her family were there and Holly and some of her friends were also staying. My mother was there and they managed to get her out and she is fine.
"The main house is completely destroyed and the fire is not yet completely out. My office was based in the house and I have lost thousands of photographs which is very sad."

The Great House was expected to be the venue for the marriage later this year of Holly Branson and shipbroker Freddie Andrews.

Situated at the top of Devils Hill, the highest ground on the idyllic 74-acre island, it affords panoramic views of the Caribbean and the Atlantic.

At the heart of the house was the Great Room featuring a snooker table, a piano and an outdoor terrace with sofas and hammocks and a large infinity pool.
The property boasted eight luxury bedrooms, each featuring its own balcony, four poster bed and en suite bathroom. The master suite, described as “the jewel in the crown” had an outdoor Jacuzzi and bathroom with views over Necker and the neighbouring islands.
Sir Richard built the Great House primarily for the use of his family and friends.
It is described online as being designed in an “airy Balinese” style. The walls, it is claimed, were made from Necker stone blasted out of Devil’s Hill while the stone flooring came from Yorkshire and most of the furniture was hand made in Bali.
To hire the Great House and six Bali houses dotted around the island, cost from $54,500 (£33,000) a night for up to 28 guests.
Other celebrities who have stayed there include actors Robert de Niro, Steven Spielberg and Mel Gibson and television presenter Oprah Winfrey.