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Former Silvertown firefighter searches for boy he rescued in the eighties

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 August 2018

Robert Newby, a former Barking firefighter who's sinced retired to Exeter and become a councillor. Picture: Exeter City Council

Robert Newby, a former Barking firefighter who's sinced retired to Exeter and become a councillor. Picture: Exeter City Council

Archant

A retired fireman is on the search for a child he rescued in Barking in the eighties.

The original article in The Post, which reported on Robert saving a three-year-old from a flat fire. Picture: Robert NewbyThe original article in The Post, which reported on Robert saving a three-year-old from a flat fire. Picture: Robert Newby

Robert Newby, who began his career at Silvertown fire station, saved three-year-old Laurence Lotter from a flat fire on the Gascoigne Estate.

After finding an old clipping of the incident in The Post, the 64-year-old is on a mission to track him down.

“I was just going through a scrapbook I’d had put together and I wondered what happened to that man,” he said.

“He’s had a second chance at life – he would have died. I wanted to know if he’s got children, or gotten married.”

Robert was working in Barking fire crew’s red watch when the call came in about a flat alight in Tasker House.

When the four firefighters arrived, they found a flat with smoke pouring through the first floor window.

“It was one those calls you can never forget,” he said.

“Smoke was punching through the first floor window. I said, why don’t we push through the window with a ladder and we can get anything we need through there. We pushed it through and the window smashed.

“I took the hose up and I could hear what I thought was whining. The smoke was really thick, and back then, we weren’t wearing flame retardents. “Low and behold, there was a littl’un on the floor by the window.”

Robert tried to grab the boy, but couldn’t take hold as his nappy was caught on a toybox. When crews made it into the room, they helped release him, and Robert passed the child down to station officer Duggan, who was waiting with paramedics.

They gave him CPR and managed to get him breathing again. He was the only person found in the flat.

“A lot of the time when you do a job, you do it and you forget about it,” Robert said.

“It’s just the fact that I’m retired, so I was sat there reminiscing.

“I have a permanent reminder on my right hand – when I punched through the window, the shard of glass went straight in between two of my fingers. “I still carry the scar, and every time I look at it, I think of him and think it was worth it.”

Robert finished his career with East Ham’s fire brigade in 1998. Could you help him track down Laurence? Contact @BDPost or rhiannon.long@archant.co.uk with information.

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