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In her most famous role, actress Kate Winslet escaped a Titanic death by braving the freezing waters of the north Atlantic after the "unsinkable ship" sank. This past weekend, the 35-year-old Oscar winner escaped death by fire, when British billionaire Sir Richard Branson's private home, where she and nearly 20 other guests were staying, burned to the ground. Winslet and the others are lucky to be alive.
The eight-bedroom house on Necker, Branson's private island in the British Virgin Islands, caught fire late Sunday night when a severe wind and lightnight storm, part of tropical storm Irene, walloped the Virgin Islands. The direct cause of the fire is under investigation, but it is believed to have been lightning.
Branson, his wife and his 25-year-old son Sam were staying in another home on the property, 100 yards away. Sam managed to help evacuate all of the guests from the burning house, including Branson's 90-year-old mother and 29-year-old daughter Holly, as well as Winslet, her boyfriend Louis Dowler, and her two children, Mia, 10, and Joe, 7 (from marriages to directors Jim Threapleton and Sam Mendes).
In a statement given to the press Monday morning, the Virgin Group boss confirmed the news. "Kate Winslet, her boyfriend and her family were there, and Holly and some of her friends were also staying. My mother was there, and they managed to get her out, and she is fine."
Winslet's spokeswoman also confirmed that the actress was unharmed.
The fire completely engulfed Branson's home and was still burning on Monday morning. Branson said, "My office was based in the house, and I have lost thousands of photographs, which is very sad." He said the house was "completely destroyed," but he and his family plan to rebuild it "as soon as we can."