Fire lingers in Kate Winslet's memory

Kate Winslet will "never forget" escaping the fire that destroyed Sir Richard Branson's Caribbean home.

The Titanic actress - who carried the Virgin businessman's 90-year-old mother Eve to safety from the blaze, which took place on Necker Island in the early hours of Monday - is "so glad" none of the 20 guests in the Great House, which included her boyfriend Louis Dowler, and two children Mia, 10, and seven-year-old Joe, were hurt.

She told The Sun newspaper: "I'm just so glad that everyone is safe. And this very easily could not have been the case.

"I will never forget Richard placing his arms around both my children as we were watching the flames, and saying, 'At the end of the day, what you realise is that all that matters is the people that you love. Everything else is just stuff. And none of that stuff matters.' "

Richard's 29-year-old daughter Holly - who is due to get married on Necker Island in December - was in the house when the fire broke out as a result of a lightning strike during Hurricane Irene.

Qualified doctor Holly said: "It makes me feel sick thinking back to the night of the fire.

"It was an experience I hope none of us have to ever go through again in our lives."

The 61-year-old British tycoon's son Sam, 25, rushed over to the property to help evacuate the guests - and feared his grandmother and sister had been burnt alive in the "horrific" accident.

He explained: "I woke up to a nightmare. The sight of our home was horrific - amidst the storm all I could see was a huge ball of flames and a giant orange glow reflecting off the rain.

"I thought everyone inside was being burnt alive. I couldn't believe my eyes. I ran barefoot over cacti, through the hurricane force winds.

"All I could think was I've got to try and save what was left of my family, and did my best not to break down."

Richard - who was staying in a villa 100 yards away from the fire with his wife Joan - praised Kate's actions after she rescued his mum.

The Branson family's pet tortoise ET has also been found alive and well in the ruins but has a charred shell.

- BANG! Showbiz

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