A man is seriously ill in hospital after being engulfed by flames as he tried to fight a fire himself.

Passers-by watched in horror as a fire broke out at the base of a cherry-picker close to The Master Mariner pub at Brighton Marina at noon yesterday (April 17).

As smoke rose into the cab of the vehicle, one of the men leapt from the top of the ladder to escape it.

But when his colleague tried to battle the fire with extinguishers thrown by nearby workers, his clothes caught fire.

He suffered burns to his hands, eyes, arms, face and airways and his eyelashes were burnt off.

One woman, writing on Twitter, said: “The cherry-picker blew up and caught fire in front of me.”

Last night the 30-year-old was being treated for serious injuries at Royal Sussex County Hospital, an East Sussex Fire and Rescue spokeswoman said.

A Roedean firefighter who attended the incident said he believed that the fire was caused after a spark from the machinery ignited fuel, although the investigation is at a very early stage and this has not yet been confirmed.

Petrol accelerant

He said: “There was no explosion but it might have looked like this as there was a rapid increase in fire due to petroleum being present near the portable cherry-picker.

“Sadly one person is badly burnt.

“His condition will not be known until doctors have assessed it.

“We are unsure of the exact cause but it was not smoking related.

“We believe there was an ignition source around the machine.

“The fire spread rapidly. His clothes were burnt and he was burnt as he attempted to put out the fire.”

Sussex Police last night confirmed that East Sussex Fire and Rescue had contacted it.

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