Recovery: Volunteers are already helping the owners of Graceland Stables to get back on their feet, with work underway on a new building just a day after the fire took place. *Photo by Amanda Dale.
Recovery: Volunteers are already helping the owners of Graceland Stables to get back on their feet, with work underway on a new building just a day after the fire took place. *Photo by Amanda Dale.
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WEDNESDAY, FEB. 1 UPDATE: Support from the community is easing the pain for two stable owners who lost three of their horses in a fire at the weekend.

Noel ‘Chopper’ Jones and Brenda Cardoza expressed their gratitude to the community yesterday for rallying round them in their hour of need.

They lost a colt, Return to Sender, and a mare, Bye Bye Byrd, in the fire, which razed Graceland Stables on Friday morning.

Later that day they also had to put the mare Tuxedo’s Lady to sleep due to severe burns.

Mr Jones, 70, and Ms Cardoza, 71, managed to save 10 ponies, three goats and fowl, but were injured in the attempts to rescue their animals.

Mr Jones suffered burns to his face, neck and hands, while Ms Cardoza received hospital treatment for smoke inhalation and heart difficulties.

Mr Jones said: “I just had to get the horses out, it’s how I got all burnt up.

“I wasn’t thinking of my own safety, I was just concerned about the horses. Some wouldn’t come out, they were so scared, so I had to push and pull them out of the stables.

“I couldn’t get to Return to Sender and Bye Bye Byrd, I couldn’t reach them, they were already gone.

“The third one I got out (Tuxedo’s Lady), but she had to go through the flames and everything. She got severely burnt and so we had to put her down.

Upset

“I feel very upset about the fire. I am missing those ponies already.

“It was a very frightening experience. And the horses were all agitated, they were jumping and kicking with fright.”

The fire started at the stables, in Cobb’s Hill, Paget, at about 6am and it took firefighters an hour and 45 minutes to get it under control.

Ms Cardoza said: “We don’t know how it started but it spread through the whole roof. It was awful to see it.”

She tried to gather the horses together in the yard but started having breathing difficulties.

“I’ve had heart problems in the past and have had a triple bypass. I couldn’t get any air and I couldn’t breathe. My heart was racing so they took me to hospital.”

Neighbours and members of the pony racing community arrived at the scene to try to assist police and firefighters.

They cleared up the debris and then started work on rebuilding the stables. A clean-up on Saturday was attended by more than 75 people.

In an outpouring of community support, local businesses such as Flanagan’s and Serpentine Liquors donated food and drink, while QRS supplied trash skips.

Then the construction firms and truckers weighed in. Local companies donated tools, materials and equipment. They included Island Construction, Dynamic, DeCosta Construction, Rayclan and family, D & J Construction, Joe Vieira & Son, Souza’s Landscape Management Company, and Gilbert and John Lopes. Bermuda Air Conditioning also delivered paneling.

The project to rebuild the stables is being headed up by Charles Whited Jr of SJ Carpentry.

Concrete for a new stable block was laid by Saturday night and yesterday, the foundations were levelled and completed.

Mr Jones and Ms Cardoza say they have been “overwhelmed” by people’s generosity.

Other stable owners are housing the 10 surviving ponies — at Roque Stables, Simsfield Stables and Terceira Stables.

Noah’s Ark is also donating feed, supplying the ponies’ daily breakfast and dinner.

Healing

Ms Cardoza said: “There are no words that can thank people enough. We can’t describe this pouring of love, but it is definitely helping us to heal.

“It just shows how many people love animals, and it’s just like how the old Bermuda used to be back in the day.

“It’s amazing what they’ve done to rebuild the stables. We’ve got people coming every day after they finish work to help out. Each day I see a new truck arriving.”

Ms Cardoza said she and Mr Jones were feeling “fine” yesterday after their injuries, but they are grieving the loss of their ponies.

“We will treasure the memories,” she said.

“I was very close to all of the ponies, especially Return to Sender.

“He never did anything wrong, he was the most awesome pony, and children loved him. He would put his head on his shoulder and go to sleep, and the children loved that.”

Ms Cardoza, an Elvis fan, named the colt after the popular hit song. Graceland Stables is also named after Elvis and she has a portrait of ‘the King’ under the seat of the couple’s sulky cart.

Ms Cardoza added: “Bye Bye Byrd was my son and my grandchildren’s favourite, she was like the family pony.

“Tuxedo’s Lady was also marvellous. They were all perfect ponies and will be missed.”

Police and firefighters have launched an investigation into the fire. Anyone with information should contact the Bermuda Police Service on 295-0011.