FAMILY and friends have paid tribute to a man who died trying to rescue his dog from a burning car.
Bob Johnson and his German Shephard Jed died when the car exploded outside Fairways Cafe in Hullbridge Road, Rayleigh.
An inquest heard Mr Johnson, 63, who was a security guard, had been drinking at the Smugglers Den in Hullbridge before leaving to go back to his caravan at the diner.
He drove his Volvo into the car park and hit two other cars before crashing into a low wall and becoming stuck.
Investigations showed the fuel tank probably ruptured and the heat from the car caused it to explode. It is believed he was trying to save Jed who was in the boot of the car.
Daughter Gina Bowd, who lives in Rush Green, Romford, said her dad had loved animals.
She said: “He has always been a dog lover, he has always been quite a loner even when I was a child he wasn’t a people person.
“He used to be a postman for nearly thirty years and he worked for the investigation branch of the Post Office.”
Friend Jeff Simons, from Hullbridge, used to drink with Mr Johnson in the Smugglers Den.
He said: “We used to go and sit with him and walk his dog.
“The first dog he bought was a little puppy called Raghi. The dog he died with was Jed who was a rescue dog. It was sad when he got him, it was emaciated, it had been really not looked after. Over the period of two or three months you could see the dog filling out.”
Acting coroner for Southend and South East Essex, Yvonne Blake, gave the cause of death as inhalation of fire fumes and burns and recorded a narrative verdict.