Academy Award-winning actress Kate Winslet could add the title of hero to her resumé if Virgin Group businessman Richard Branson has his way.
In his blog, Branson credits Winslet with saving his 90-year-old mother from a fire that destroyed the main home on Necker, his private island in the British Virgin Islands, on Monday.
The fire is believed to have been triggered by lightning from tropical storm Irene, which slammed the Virgin Islands and moved over Puerto Rico late Sunday and early Monday, becoming a hurricane Monday with winds of about 130 km/h.
"Thank you for all your kind messages after the fire on Necker," Branson wrote on his blog. "We’re thankful that everyone is ok. Around 20 people were in the house and they all managed to get out and they are all fine."
Branson said he was staying in another property around 100 metres away with his wife, Joan, and son Sam, 25.
Plans to rebuild massive home
The British businessman said his son and nephew Jack rushed to the main house and helped get everyone out, "and many thanks to Kate Winslet for helping to carry my 90 year old mum out of the main house."
Branson's daughter, 29-year-old Holly, also emerged safely.
Winslet had been staying at Branson's home with her boyfriend and two children, from marriages to directors Jim Threapleton and Sam Mendes.
Branson said the eight-bedroom house was "completely destroyed" but he planned to rebuild it "as soon as we can."
"We'll all stay here for the time being," he said. "There's a lot of damage and we won't be able to stick it back together again right away."
He said the cause of the fire was still being investigated but lightning was the likely culprit.
Branson, 60, bought the island in the early 1980s and began building the Great House in 1982. He also has developed an exclusive eco-resort on the island showcasing renewable energy technology.
Winslet, 35, earned fame after appearing opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Canadian director's James Cameron's epic Oscar-winning film Titanic. She earned a best actress Academy Award in 2009 for The Reader.
Winslet's spokeswoman, Sara Keene, confirmed the actress was on the island and was unharmed. She said Winslet had no comment.