THIS was the dramatic moment a man’s car was engulfed by fire in an early morning arson attack in Ballymena which he fears could have been racist.
The man, originally from the Czech Republic, has been living in the Parklands area of the town for a decade but around 6am on Tuesday he had to flee his home as flames from his burning vehicle looked as though they could spread to the building.
As the flames leapt into the sky, Ivo Zilka (58) had to run into the rear garden of his home while clutching his pet ‘Westie’ dog called ‘Charming’.
Speaking at the scene through a friend who translated for him, on Tuesday, Ivo told ‘Ballymena Daily’ he could not think why his car was set alight but feared it may have been because he is a foreign national.
“It could be to do with ‘Brexit’, it could be racist, I just don’t know. I am shocked.”
He added: “I love living here, it is a quiet area. I have been in this house for ten years and nothing like this has ever happened,” he said.
His black Mercedes car was destroyed just a week before Christmas.
He was preparing to put the vehicle through an MOT test next month.
Police are treating the incident as arson.
Ivo said he was sleeping when alerted by a neighbour after 6am and, frightened the house could have caught fire, he fled outside.
He grabbed his pet dog called ‘Charming’ and ran into the back garden after being unable to exit via the main door of the house which was just feet from his car which had been turned into a fireball.
Ivo, a night shift worker with a manufacturing firm, said the attack will not put him off living in the area and he is staying in the house.
However, he now faces Christmas with no car but added: “I am just happy nobody was hurt”.
Ivo said neighbours had expressed their shock and disgust at what happened.
A PSNI spokesperson told ‘Ballymena Daily’: “This incident in the Parklands area was reported to us at 6:20am. Officers, along with colleagues from NIFRS (Fire Service), attended and the blaze was extinguished.
“The vehicle was completely burned out. We are currently treating this as arson.”
Police are appealing for witnesses and want anyone who has information about what happened, or who saw suspicious activity in the area in the run up to the incident, to contact them on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference number 184 of 18/12/18.
Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.