Driver, 82, arrested after car smashes into Emsworth Sailing Club at estimated 70mph

Police say an 82-year-old driver has been arrested on suspicion of arson after a car smashed into Emsworth Sailing Club at an estimated 70mph early today.

A family who live in the club escaped without injury after being awoken as fire caught hold in the building.

Firefighters at Emsworth Sailing Club today

Firefighters at Emsworth Sailing Club today

The driver was rescued without serious injury from the vehicle, which left a huge hole in the side wall of the club.

Residents spoke of hearing an explosion when the crash happened just after 6.30am. Flames spread to the roof of the club and were extinguished by firefighters.

He is believed to have been taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham before being arrested by police.

A Hampshire Police spokesman said no-one in the building had been hurt in the incident or the subsequent fire.

He added: ‘The driver was treated for non-life threatening injuries. Some local residents were temporarily evacuated until the fire was extinguished and have now returned to their homes.

‘An 82 year-old man from Emsworth has been arrested on suspicion of arson and is helping police with their enquiries.’

The club’s commodore, Chris Clode, said the arrested man was a member of the club.

Mr Clode said: ‘Somebody drove down Bath Road at speed and went straight through the north wall of the sailing club.

‘The car caught fire and is still embedded there. The fire is out. The police and fire brigade were here pretty quickly.

‘The person concerned has been arrested and is in Queen Alexandra.’

Mr Clode said the incident has come as a ‘total shock’.

The room where the car crashed is used as children’s room for members and is almost directly above it as the flat of the club’s franchisee Oliver Clift.

He and his wife Eloise and their two children Ellie Mai and Noah were awoken by the crash.

Mr Clode said: ‘They were awoken by this explosion. The car immediately caught fire. They were almost directly above.’

Mr Clode said the car was probably driving at between 60mph to 70mph.

He was still keeping an open mind as to whether it was an accident or a deliberate act.

He said: ‘We don’t know the reasons. We just don’t know why. The police will find that out.’

He added: ‘It’s come as a complete shock to members of the club.

‘We need to take stock and find out exactly the extent of the damage.

‘Hopefully the club will be able to continue with its sailing activities.

‘I suspect some of the social functions may be curtailed until such time that we can rebuild the damage.

‘It appears the damage is restricted to the front of the building which does not affect the bar, the training area or the franchisee’s flat.’