A FATHER has spoken of his family’s terrifying battle of survival after arsonists torched his motorhome in Angmering while he was asleep inside it.
Marc Smith, 40, had been sleeping in his camper van, in Mayflower Way, with his eight-year-old daughter, Sienna, when he was woken at about 3am on Sunday morning by the sound of flames rapidly engulfing his home.
Mr Smith, a self-employed mechanic, initially thought it was rain pattering on the roof of the van. But when he realised, the horrified father, who had been sleeping in the rear of the van, rushed to rescue his little girl.
He said: “It was petrifying. I just grabbed my daughter and pulled her out the camper van. By that time the whole back end of the motor was in flames.
“If I had not woken up to what I thought was the sound of rain we would not be here. The flames were so intense I was shocked at how quickly it took hold. We could have died.”
After making sure his daughter was safe, Mr Smith sprinted back into the ablaze vehicle to grab his phone and car keys.
“It was touch and go when I went in there,” he said. “But I needed my phone to call the fire brigade and keys to give my daughter somewhere safe to stay.”
Minutes after the pair was forced to flee the van, the flames completely engulfed it, razing it to the ground.
“It was scary, noisy and just terrifying,” he said. “The noise was immense and the flames were so high. It was gut-wrenchingly sad knowing that you could do nothing to stop it.”
Fire crews from East Preston and Worthing battled the blaze for about 90 minutes, using breathing apparatus and high-pressure hoses, while a Red Cross support unit tended to the shaken father and his frightened daughter.
Police are now appealing for witnesses to come forward. Marc said the attack followed a frightening altercation he had with a man just hours before the blaze was sparked.
DC Emma Cruise said: “We are appealing to anyone who might have seen someone acting suspiciously in the area or anyone who might have information.
“Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 101. Alternatively contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”